Toliver Freeman had an outstanding career at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He scored over 1,500 points in his four seasons, surpassing the 1,000-point mark in his junior year, and was named the team MVP three consecutive seasons.
Despite that, the college recruiting process didn’t go as smoothly as you might expect. Freeman was in contact with some Division I colleges, including Ivy League schools, but there weren’t any official offers.
The 6-foot-3 guard had gotten to know Saint Joseph’s assistant coach Geoff Arnold through mutual connections, and Freeman was offered a spot as a walk-on. He decided that Hawk Hill gave him the best opportunity to play Division I basketball and pursue his dream of being a physician.
Being a D-I athlete and preparing to become a doctor sounds like a lot to balance. Freeman doesn’t mind it at all. He’s a biology major, which presents a rigorous course load. He’s been named to the SJU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll multiple times. Sure, college basketball is more demanding than high school ball, but the balance is nothing new to Freeman. He’s been doing it his whole life.
“Growing up, my parents always put a big emphasis on school,” Freeman said. “I’ve always bought into that. Having basketball makes your schedule more compact, so that way you don’t have the time to procrastinate. If you ever want free time, you have to work early.”
Freeman only played in one game his freshman season, but he knew what to expect coming in. As a member of the scout team, he watched film of opponents and emulated certain players in practices, which helped the starters and rotation players prepare for upcoming games.
Towards the end of his sophomore year, Freeman and head coach Phil Martelli talked about the possibility of Freeman earning a scholarship. Nothing was guaranteed, of course, but Freeman kept working hard with that goal in the back of his mind.
Fast forward to the 2018-19 season. It wasn’t a huge surprise when Martelli called Freeman up to his office and told him he’d earned a scholarship for the spring semester, but Freeman was still thrilled, smiling the whole time. It signaled the start of a new chapter in his life: scholarship Division I basketball player.
“Although life is going to be plenty of failures and things of that nature, you’ve just got to learn how to persevere through things and hopefully the best will happen,” Freeman said. “Sometimes it may not, but at least you can go out and give it your all. Receiving a scholarship is a true testament to how if you continue to work and keep your mind focused, avoid all distractions, do what you’ve got to do to the best of your ability, then things will turn out well.”
Freeman knows there are still aspects of his game he can improve upon, but earning the scholarship accomplished one of his main goals in coming to Hawk Hill. Another big goal is right around the corner, too.
When he’s not focusing on basketball and his classes, Freeman will be spending the spring semester studying for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT for short.
“I’ve been studying for the MCAT this whole year, picking up the pace even more now,” Freeman said. “It’s a big, big, big cumulative test. I would compare it to someone who’s trying to go pro, knowing that they have an NBA workout on June 15th and it’s January. It’s that kind of magnitude.”
After he takes the MCAT, Freeman will think more about where he’d like to go to medical school. Right now, he’s just weighing his options, although Georgetown sticks out to him because of its Jesuit roots and its Institute of Clinical Bioethics.
Freeman is a part of SJU’s Institute of Clinical Bioethics, which “promotes interdisciplinary research, educational programs, academic courses, clinical consultation and policy development services in the field of bioethics,” per its website.
The Institute has numerous projects and initiatives that benefit the Philadelphia area as well as other countries. Some of these have a broader goal, like “Health Promoters,” where Freeman and other students go into Philly to provide medical services like flu shots and height, weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose measurements. Other initiatives are more specific.
“I think that’s a big part of being a more wholesome doctor, being able to see from the perspective of the patient,” Freeman said. “I’m part of this task called ‘Obesity Taskforce.’ We haven’t begun officially, but we came up with proposals and we received a grant. We go to a church in Center City for the Hispanic community and we teach the kids nutrition, we exercise them, and then we give them a pamphlet and a little exercise card which has like six minutes worth of exercises on it, to try to fight childhood obesity because they’re our future.”
While the Institute has provided Freeman with a lot of great experiences, he doesn’t want to decide what his medical specialty will be just yet. He wants to learn everything he can first and go into rotations with an open mind. He’ll get a feel for everything, figure out what he’s good at and how he can impact the most people, and then he’ll decide on a specialty.
Back in high school, Freeman had felt a little dejected when he didn’t receive offers from colleges he had been considering. He didn’t want to hold onto those negative emotions when he came to Hawk Hill; he was committed to working hard to achieve his goals and it paid off in the way every walk-on dreams of.
With that same dedication and work ethic, Freeman is poised to do great things during the rest of his time on Hawk Hill and as a physician.