For two years, Virginia guard Amandine Toi has watched from the bench as her teammates battled on the court. Toi, who missed her first two seasons as a Cavalier due to injuries, finally made her much anticipated debut for the UVA in the 2019-20 season opener against Bucknell. The redshirt freshman scored 11 points with six assists in her first action on any court in over two years. For Toi, the opportunity was one she made sure to relish.
“It was the best feeling,” Toi said of finally being able to join her teammates on the floor at John Paul Jones Arena. “Excitement as you could see, I was just everywhere because, you know, it’s the first game and I love basketball so much. I will say it was anxiety a little bit, because I wanted to be ready for that game like anybody else would be. I was excited, just excited. I was more happy than scared or anxious or stressed. I was really happy to be on the court.”
Toi’s first two seasons on Grounds followed nearly identical paths. The highly touted guard who made her way up through the ranks of the French National Team system seemed destined for an immediate role in the Cavalier lineup. She made early impressions as a freshman in summer practice, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in the final week of preseason practice.
After rehabbing over the course of her first year, Toi once again seemed poised to make an impact for UVA in 2018-19. Once more, she navigated through summer workouts, gaining clearance to resume full basketball activities. Again, Toi suffered a season-ending knee injury in the final days before the season opener.
With her track record, Toi was admittedly nervous in the final practices leading into the 2019 opener.
“The practice before the first game,” Toi said, “I was kind of on tippy toes because that was the main goal, to be ready for the first game. I’ll say it was tough mentally because you don’t know if the knee will stay ready or if the other one is going to pop out. I was really trying to be ready anyways and be like ‘no regrets’ in a way.”
While battling the two knee injuries, Toi credits her support system with getting her back on the court and keeping her in good spirits throughout the tough times.
“My strength trainer, Morgan [Foster], and athletic trainer, Craig [Oates], I would say were the biggest support,” Toi said. “They were always with me during these things. On the team, I will say Jocelyn, Nikki and Lisa were always with me. They were here before I got here, so I’ll say we have a special connection. Then, Khyasia Caldwell, she’s my best friend. So, I’ll say those people really helped me stick with it.”
 After two months, Toi is still appreciative of every opportunity to step on the floor. She’s appeared in all 14 contests for the Cavaliers, averaging better than 20 minutes per game.
“I’m thankful because I’m still healthy after 14 games,” Toi said. “I think that was the goal. I’m really happy to be here and be able to pull with my teammates and be able to play, be able to help the team. So, I would say I’m excited, happy and thankful.”
Midway through her first season on the floor, Toi says her injuries have necessitated changes in her game.
“Obviously, contact in the paint,” Toi said. “I used to be a driver and now it’s something that I have to quit a little bit, just because of the reality of my knees. So, I really think the challenge was to improve my shot, more than my drive, when before I was a driver first because of contact and the risks of re-injury.”
With 14 games under her belt, Toi has a solid grasp on where she wants to go over the course of the ACC schedule.
“I’ll say try to create opportunities for myself,” she said. “I think I got caught up in just trying to make everybody better and was concerned more about that. I think I will focus more on scoring, more like in my mentality back then. But I’ll say going forward, I want to help the team scoring wise and defensively. I think that will be my goal.”
While plenty has changed on the court for Toi after the two seasons away with injuries, perhaps the most impactful change has been in her mentality.
“My circle got tighter because when you are in your lowest, you see the real people around you,” Toi said. “I will say, I’m less caring about other aspects of basketball. I love basketball so much that I was frustrated every time I made a mistake. I was doing something bad, something wrong, but now I’m just happy to be there and on the court. I think that should be my mentality, not the game.”