By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — When Faith Randolph looked back on her first season on the UVa women’s basketball team, what she saw frustrated her, especially her shooting percentages: 26.3 percent from the floor and 19.7 percent from 3-point range.
A 5-10 guard from Derwood, Md., Randolph had more than a few games in which seemingly nothing would drop for her in 2012-13. She made only 2 of 10 shots from the floor against North Carolina (Jan. 17), 1 of 7 against Duke (Feb. 8), 1 of 8 versus Maryland (Feb. 17), 1 of 8 against NC State (Feb. 28).
For a player who as a Good Counsel High senior was the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference’s player of the year, that was unacceptable, and Randolph didn’t need anyone else to tell her that.
“You don’t have to challenge Faith,” Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle said Wednesday at John Paul Jones Arena. “She’s so self-motivated. She analyzes herself and she critiques herself better than most people.”
About a week after the season ended, Randolph went back to work, and her training sessions with strength-and-conditioning coach Jeremy Anderson continued through the summer. Randolph, who started seven games as a freshman, wanted to transform her body, to get quicker, stronger, fitter.
“I lost about 15 pounds,” she said, “and I gained some muscle.”
Also, Boyle said, Randolph “knew she had to shoot the ball better for us, so she spent time in the gym doing that. She’ll go above and beyond before you even have to talk to her about it. She works harder than anybody on her game. It’s going to pay off for her.”
Randolph said: “Last year was really a driver for me, because I knew I wanted to get better and I wanted to help this team get better. The season we had wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted something better, and I knew as a team we could be better, so I really tried to work hard.”
She’s still not shooting as well as she’d like, but Randolph has made clear progress this season for a team that plays this weekend in the Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites Classic Tournament at Fort Myers, Fla.
Randolph leads the Wahoos in scoring (12 ppg). She’s second in assists (24) and third in steals (16). She’s shooting 39.8 percent from the floor, 26.7 percent from 3-point range and 73.3 percent from the line. Among the players in Boyle’s rotation, she has the best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6).
“When I come off the bench, I try to see what we need, whether it’s a bucket or a stop,” said Randolph, who has started two of Virginia’s nine games. “I’m just here to contribute, whether that’s offensively or defensively. When my shot gets going, I feel pretty good.”
And if she misses? Randolph doesn’t hesitate to shoot again. That’s a good thing, according to her head coach.
“If anything with Faith, it’s that she’s just trying to figure out what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot,” Boyle said. “That’s just her youth. She’s a sophomore trying to figure it all out. But she has a scorer’s mentality. She’s not shy.”
Randolph follows NBA players such as Stephen Curry and Ray Allen. “They don’t care if they miss a shot,” she said. “They’ll keep shooting. And I feel like on this team, I need to have that mentality to help us on the offensive end.”
Next up for UVa (4-5) is a 4:30 p.m. game Friday with Tulane (5-3) in Fort Myers. Virginia meets host Florida Gulf Coast (5-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday. Then the `Hoos come home to host the Cavalier Classic, Dec. 28 and 29 at JPJ.
In the Cavaliers’ last game before final exams, they lost 73-53 on Dec. 5 to visiting Michigan in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In their first post-finals game, the `Hoos hammered Maryland Eastern Shore 81-46 at JPJ on Tuesday night, with Randolph contributing a career-high 22 points.
“We’ve been trying to come off the Michigan game looking at it as a five-game tournament, and we had a really good start to that last night,” Boyle said Wednesday. “Now we really gotta be road warriors.”
Randolph hit 9 of 14 shots from the floor against UMES, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. That was her best performance since Nov. 28, when she scored 16 points (on 7-for-13 shooting) in a loss to No. 3 Tennessee.
“I know I’m a good shooter,” Randolph said, “and I know I’ve worked hard in the offseason, getting shots up and just trying to get better, and that helps my confidence.”
Randolph benefited Tuesday night from playing with freshman guard Tiffany Suarez, who had eight points, three assists and a steal in 22 minutes off the bench.
“Faith was just in a rhythm, and I thought to be honest Tiffany fed her well,” Boyle said. “She put [Randolph] in position to be successful.”
Suarez excels at pushing the “tempo for us,” Boyle said, “so she gives Faith and other people easier baskets. That was very obvious [against UMES]. We got to finally get some transition and attack and not have to go against a set defense all the time. So that’s what she really brought to the table. I thought she was pretty composed, I thought she did a good job defensively, but more than anything I thought she just moved [the ball]. The ball doesn’t stay in her hands very often, and we’ve been lacking that.”
Randolph, whose major is Studies in Women and Gender, was raised in a home where academics were stressed. Her father is an executive with General Electric, and her mother is a high school math teacher. One of Randolph’s sisters, Tiffany, is an attorney who earned her bachelor’s degree from UVa in 2003.
Randolph, then, was no stranger to the University when she enrolled in 2012, and she sees plenty of familiar faces around Grounds. The UVa football team included five Good Counsel graduates this season: E.J. Scott, Vincent Croce, Andre Levrone, Kirk Garner and Brendan Marshall. Moreover, the freshmen on the women’s basketball team include another player from Good Counsel, Amanda Fioravanti.
“We always reminisce about the days at Good Counsel and how our high school is better than any other high school in the nation,” Randolph said, smiling. “It really gets you prepared for athletics at the Division I level, and academically as well.”