By Jeff White – Virginia News Services
CHARLOTTESVILLE — On their second day at the University of Virginia, Raeshaun Gaffney and Faith Randolph learned the hard way that the Observatory Hill dining hall stops serving breakfast at 8:30 a.m.
They showed up at 9.
Gaffney and Randolph may have left O-Hill hungry that morning, but they were able to laugh that afternoon about their poor timing. Such moments are part of the education of college students, they know, and Gaffney and Randolph have been at UVa for less than a week.
By the time most members of the first-year class arrive at the University in August, Gaffney and Randolph will know where to go — and when — on Grounds. They’ll also have an understanding of what UVa women’s basketball coach Joanne Boyle expects from her players.
Gaffney and Randolph are among the recruits who signed letters of intent with Virginia in November. The other is Jaryn Garner, who is completing an internship this month. She’ll enroll at UVa next month and join Gaffney and Randolph for the final session of summer school.
The calendar for Division I women’s basketball differs from that of the men’s game, and Boyle and her assistant coaches are not allowed to work with their players this summer. But the Cavaliers’ freshmen can train with strength-and-conditioning coaches Mike Curtis and Jeremy Anderson, work on drills and play pick-up games with their teammates.
Boyle said she wants the newcomers not only to get stronger and fitter, but to experience “the pace at which we go and we do things at. I think that’s huge for them, to be able to come in and see the intensity and the demands of what your day looks like. We’d love for them to get a routine to their day in terms of time management.
“Obviously, anything they can do to work on their skill set is also good. They come in and they’re with Mike and Jeremy for a good portion of the day, but then they have a lot of time on their own in the gym with each other, just doing skill workouts, a little bit of pick-up.”
Gaffney is a 5-9 guard from Fairfield, Ohio, outside Cincinnati. She averaged 26.7 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 2.2 assists as a Fairfield High senior.
Randolph, a 5-10 guard, is from Derwood, Md. She starred at Good Counsel High — a school that’s well-represented in UVa’s football program — and twice was named to The Washington Post’s All-Metro first team.
Garner, a 5-8 guard from Sewell, N.J., led Germantown Academy to its 14th consecutive conference title. She averaged 12.7 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals in 2011-12. She finished the season with 109 steals, a total surpassed only twice in school history.
They’ll be joining a team that finished 25-11 in 2011-12, its first season under Boyle. The Cavaliers also will have the services of 6-2 forwards Sarah Imovbioh and Sarah Beth Barnette in 2012-13. Imovbioh, a graduate of nearby St. Anne’s-Belfield School, will be a redshirt freshman, and Barnette, a transfer from Kentucky, will be a redshirt sophomore.
“We just had to add more pieces,” Boyle said. “We needed more depth, and we needed more athleticism.”
Virginia went into the 2011-12 season with two point guards: China Crosby and Ariana Moorer. Crosby missed the final 24 games after tearing her ACL, and Moorer was a senior.
“With Ari graduating and China coming back but being hurt, we needed more ballhandlers,” Boyle said, and that’s an area in which Gaffney, Randolph and Garner should help.
“All three of them kind of bring that dynamic,” Boyle said. “They’re all combo guards. All three are very good athletes and have a lot of energy.”
When Gaffney committed to UVa in 2010, she expected to play for coach Debbie Ryan in college. Ryan stepped down after the 2010-11 season, however, and Boyle was hired to succeed her.
Ryan was a big part of the reason she chose Virginia, Gaffney recalled this week, “but I also loved the school, because I’m big on academics. I didn’t want to just totally [reject UVa] because it had a new coaching staff. I wanted to come up here and visit and get to know the coaches, so that’s what I did.”
Not long after Virginia hired her, Boyle flew to Ohio to see Gaffney play. Katie O’Connor, then a UVa assistant, was high on Gaffney, as were others in the basketball world whose opinions Boyle trusted.
“And we needed her, and it’s a great family, and it all kind of made sense,” Boyle said of her decision to pursue Gaffney, whose commitment to UVa was non-binding.
Numerous schools, including her other finalists (Michigan State, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Louisville), contacted Gaffney after UVa announced that Ryan would step down at the season’s end. But Boyle and her staff impressed Gaffney, who decided to honor her commitment to Virginia.
“I love their energy, the passion they have, the vision for the program they have,” Gaffney said.
Randolph committed to UVa last July after considering Villanova, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt and George Washington, among other schools.
Like Gaffney, Randolph was struck by the new staff’s enthusiasm.
“I liked them because they were young and they were excited about being at this school and the program,” Randolph recalled. “I just wanted to be a part of it, because my older sister went here.”
Tiffany Randolph, a 2003 graduate of UVa, is now an attorney in Annapolis, Md.
Gaffney said she hopes to get in peak physical condition this summer, so that when practice begins in the fall she’ll “be able to jump right in and contribute.” Randolph said she wants to “get acclimated to school, academically and athletically.”
Randolph and Gaffney are roommates this summer. When the fall semester begins, however, each will room with a member of the women’s track & field team.
Boyle prefers that her players not room together as freshmen.
“I want them to get involved with other people on campus, whether it’s a regular student or another athlete,” Boyle said.
“You have to grow your social circle. If you don’t, you’re just always going to be known as a women’s basketball player, and when you leave her, you don’t want that. Now, if you become best friends with somebody on your team and you want that kind of time with them, then that’s great. After your freshman year, you figure that out. But I’m not going to force you into being with somebody 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
ON THE MEND: China Crosby, who had surgery Jan. 4 to repair her left ACL, is recovering well from her latest setback. (A torn ACL cut short Crosby’s first season at UVa, too.)
“She’s allowed to do a little bit of sliding, a little bit of cutting,” Boyle said. “She’s not into full-mode running, but [the doctors and athletic trainers] feel like she’s made tons of progress in the last two-and-a-half weeks in terms of strength.
“They’re trying not to push her too much. But her body has handled it, her knee has handled it. That’s been pleasant for them, they said.
“They’ll keep pushing her a little bit, but they want to be careful that they don’t set her back, either. Again, I told them, ‘We don’t need her until October.’ I want to make sure she’s as strong and healthy as she could potentially be. I’m not going to put her out there early.”
NEW LEADERSHIP: Under the direction of Mike Curtis, who oversees strength and conditioning for both basketball teams at UVa, Katie Fowler worked closely with Boyle’s players last season. Fowler recently accepted a position at Maryland, however, and Jeremy Anderson has taken on that assignment.
“He’s been with Mike for little over a year now, and Mike loves him,” Boyle said. “And everybody says the girls, in the time that he’s spent with them, have really liked him. And I like his presence. He’s young, but he has a commanding presence, and he knows his stuff.
Anderson, who’s from Bowling Green, Ky., played basketball at Liberty University, where the head coach his first two years was Ritchie McKay. McKay is now associate head coach of the UVa men’s team.