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Jan. 6, 2014

Raeshaun Gaffney’s first season at Virginia definitely did not go the way she had planned. After suffering a fractured tibia during her senior season in high school, she had been playing the waiting game, trying to let the bone heal on its own, but the healing process was not happening very quickly. Eventually, she opted for surgery to her shin and a redshirt season.

“My mom [Shauna Gaffney] told me everything happens for a reason,” Gaffney said. “Whatever happens to you, you take it and just try to have the best outlook about it.”

Sitting on the sidelines while the other two members of her recruiting class, Faith Randolph and Jaryn Garner, were getting time on the court was definitely “difficult”, but it was also a growing process for the guard.

“I am not going to lie, it is definitely tough sitting out your first year,” Gaffney said. “In a sense, though, I was kind of lucky because now I can handle everything better after seeing what Faith and Jaryn went through last year. In your first year, so much is thrown at you. It is a lot to take in. I did get to learn the plays and saw how the game was played and got to watch the interaction between players and coaches. It is a lot different playing than being on the bench, but it made me grow a lot.”

Gaffney wasn’t the alone sitting on the end of the bench last season. Gaffney spent a lot of time with senior guard Lexie Gerson, who also missed the 2012-13 season recovering from surgery, and not just during games. Both players would arrive at the training room almost every day at a little after 5:30 a.m. to meet trainer Stephanie Aronson to begin their treatments.

“That dynamic [between Lexie and me] was crazy,” Gaffney laughed. “We would come charging in to the training room every morning going `Let’s go. Let’s knock this out!’ We have so many inside jokes now. And after every game, we would go to Chipotle and just talk for hours. She helped me in a lot of ways. I didn’t wish that for her [sitting out the season], but I was so happy that someone was there with me on the bench and constantly in my ear.”

In addition to the help from Gerson, Aronson and strength & conditioning coach Jeremy Anderson, Gaffney has also received a huge boost from her father, Ray Gaffney.

“My dad, from the jump, probably all 18 years, has found a way to be part of my basketball experience,” Gaffney said. “In high school, he wasn’t my coach, but from the sidelines the whole team could hear what he was saying. He coached me until seventh grade school wise. He coached me AAU for a little bit, and then he stopped. He was like now you have to grow. You have to let other people teach you and let me be your dad.”

Ray Gaffney has a great deal of experience to draw on to help guide his daughter having played four years of college basketball at Minnesota, advancing to the Sweet 16 with the Golden Gophers in his senior season. But it is off-court advice that Gaffney has found the most useful so far.

“My dad told me that you are going to have good days and you are going to have bad days,” Gaffney said. “You just need to keep pushing through those days. You just keep taking knocks each day then it is going to come. If you keep working hard, if you keep putting in 100% each time you step on the floor, you are going to see results.”

Gaffney is starting to see those results. She has appeared in all 13 games, scoring 48 points with 12 assists and 13 steals this year. But no moment was as sweet as her delayed opening day.

“The first time I put on the jersey, I got emotional,” Gaffney admitted. “I was rooming with [Sarah Imovbioh] and she said `Oh my gosh. You are putting on the jersey.’ We were in the hotel room and I just started crying. I was like, what is wrong with me? Here we go! Game time! Game time!”

Gaffney made her on-court debut that night at James Madison.

“When my name was called to go out there I was thinking, `Oh my gosh. I’m so excited!’ But once I was in the game, I was like `Alright. Now I’m out here. Let’s go.'”

She played 16 minutes in the game, scoring eight points. In her first three games, she played 15.3 minutes per game and averaged 8.0 points.

With her injury and the freshman jitters in the rearview mirror, Gaffney looks forward to getting to the heart of the season.

“I am very excited to start ACC play,” Gaffney said. “When you play the best, you have to raise your level of play. You have to rise to the competition. I am so excited. I can’t wait. I feel like we can really do a lot of stuff. We are putting a lot of things together and really coming together as a team. We are starting to click and rotations are going. I feel like a lot can happen.”

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