SCRANTON — Courtney Varcoe was a standout basketball player and an honors student at Honesdale High School before embarking on a glittering college career.
Varcoe is now a senior at Penn State University’s Scranton campus. She’s just days away from playing her last game…and about to receive her undergraduate degree in nursing.
Last week, Courtney took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about basketball, college, nursing…and life.
Lady Hornet star
Courtney’s passion for basketball began at an early age as she spent countless hours developing her shot on a hoop her father erected in the driveway.
Varcoe began playing organized basketball in the third grade at the Wayne County YMCA. She then moved into Missy’s ranks before moving on to school sponsored hoops at Wayne Highlands.
By the time she reached high school, Courtney had become a solid all-around player. She received numerous awards and accolades during her four-year college career, playing under coaches like Ed “Cousy” Martin, Janine Edwards and Pilar Beam.
“Courtney is just a wonderful young lady,” Coach Martin said. “I had the absolute pleasure of working with her for several years and all I can say is this: as a grandfather, Courtney is exactly the kind of person I hope my own little ones will -children will one day become.”
Varcoe graduated from HHS in 2018. She served as team captain during her senior season and was named to the Lackawanna League Divisional All-Star Team.
Courtney has twice received the Honesdale’s Coaches Award and once the Lady Hornets Dedication Award. She also excelled in the classroom, finishing fourth overall in her class and earning public recognition at a Wayne Highlands School Board meeting in March 2018.
“The friends I made during high school basketball are so amazing and they are friends I will have forever,” Courtney said. “And our coaches really pushed us to do our best. They were truly great role models on and off the pitch.
“Some of my favorite memories were the team dinners we had before every home game. We had the best team moms. They would always take care of us and cook the best food.”
In the field
Like many outstanding student-athletes, Courtney chose to forgo the sport and focus on her freshman studies at Penn State-Scranton.
However, after establishing herself in the school’s highly regarded nursing program, Varcoe realized she needed a better balance in life and decided to take the plunge.
“I really missed basketball and decided to try it in second grade,” she said.
“Being the new girl showing up to practice not knowing what the coaches and girls were going to think of me was terrifying. But, they welcomed me with open arms and they were all among the friendships and people closer to my life.”
Courtney made an immediate impact, not just making the team, but starting in 22 of the Lady Lions’ 23 games. She finished the season averaging 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately, PSU-Scranton lost their entire 2020-21 campaign to the pandemic. But the Lady Lions came back strong for Varcoe’s senior season with a full roster featuring at least 22 games.
Varcoe spends the vast majority of his time in the small forward position. However, due to her basketball intelligence and ball handling skills, she also occasionally excels as a guard.
“Courtney is the kind of player every coach is looking for,” head coach Tom McIntyre said. “She works incredibly hard and does everything she’s asked without complaining.
“Courtney started out two years ago as a very quiet kid who came in every day and did her job. Now she’s a little more vocal and assertive. She always walks into the gym with a smile and helps her teammates to do everything they can to improve.
The Lady Lions have struggled this season, registering just three wins against 15 losses. They are 3-12 in conference action, but occasionally show flashes of brilliance that portend a bright future.
In PSU-Scranton’s most recent game, Varcoe continued his recent surge with another stellar performance. Although the team suffered a lopsided loss at the hands of PSU-Brandywine, Courtney battled her way to 17 points and 11 rebounds.
This is his sixth double-double of the season. The former returned on December 4 when she had 10 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to Fayette.
Varcoe also recorded double-doubles against Central Penn (10 pts, 13 rebs); Mont Alto (12 pts, 14 rebs); Brandywine (18 pts, 15 rebs); and Shenango (14 pts, 16 rebs).
In total, Courtney scored 163 points and grabbed 185 rebounds. She is averaging 9.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
Asked about Varcoe’s skill on the glass, Coach McIntyre was quick to respond.
“I think it’s his determination,” said the veteran skipper. “Courtney seems to be in the right place at the right time. She always keeps fighting for that ball until she has it, especially on the offensive boards.
Varcoe definitely emerged as a team leader this winter. On top of all the impressive numbers she puts up, Courtney is just reaping the rewards. She was named a PSU-Scranton Female Athlete twice in a row and also has several Player of the Game accolades on her resume.
“Courtney hardly ever misses a practice and she always puts in extra time,” Coach McIntyre said. “She is a perfectionist who is always afraid of disappointing her teammates. Courtney is an excellent leader.
Everyone who crosses Varcoe’s path is struck by what a well-rounded young woman she has become.
Besides being a talented and fiercely competitive athlete, Courtney is also smart and highly driven. So it’s no surprise that she excels in the PSU-Scranton class.
“Nursing is one of the toughest majors on campus,” Coach McIntyre said. “I’m so impressed that Courtney finds the time to play basketball with all the demands of the nursing program.”
Varcoe is the president of the school’s Nursing Club and often volunteers with the local pantry, stocking shelves and helping distribute Thanksgiving meals.
And, she does all of this while juggling college-level sports, hospital rotations, and all the rigors of being a full-time student.
“It’s tough,” Courtney said. “Trying to balance nursing school, work and basketball has been tough, especially this past year, but it’s been very rewarding.”
For his part, Coach McIntyre believes his star player is on the cusp of an exciting and successful career.
“I have no doubt that Courtney will succeed in her profession,” he said. “I also wouldn’t be surprised to see her in a leadership role one day.”
Varcoe will graduate from PSU-Scranton in May with her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She will work in the trauma unit at Geisinger Community Medical Center as a nurse.
If all goes as planned, Courtney will return to school in the fall to begin studying for a doctorate in nursing practice. Her ultimate goal is to become a nurse practitioner in gerontology.
Although Varcoe has had countless ups and downs along her journey, she has enjoyed every moment…and has mixed feelings about the end of her undergraduate career.
His last game with the Lady Lions will most likely be on Thursday February 17 at Wilkes Barre Road.
“It will be very difficult to come back after this last game,” she said. “It’s going to be super sad to walk away from something that’s been a big part of my life since I was a little girl.
“That being said, I have met the greatest coaches, teammates, mentors and best friends over the past two years and for that I am so grateful.”
Courtney is also incredibly grateful for her family’s constant support. She is the daughter of Kevin and Barb Varcoe.
“My mom, my dad and my sister Kelly have been my biggest supporters in everything from school to basketball to just life,” she said.
“They will drive three hours one way to see me play. They are my rock and I cannot thank them enough for all they have done for me.
This article originally appeared on Tri-County Independent: College Basketball Penn State Scranton Lady Lions Courtney Varcoe