Jan. 21, 2014
The Virginia women's basketball 2013-14 schedule poster and intro video feature the Cavaliers with flames shooting around them. In the case of sophomore Faith Randolph, there couldn't be a more-appropriate marketing campaign. The guard is on fire.
After averaging five points per game in her rookie year, Randolph started this season scoring in double digits each of her first three games. Through the first four games of ACC play, Randolph has been even more impressive, averaging 18.6 points per game while making 55.0 percent of her shots. Against Notre Dame, Randolph made her first five field goal attempts in the second half, scoring 12 points in the first nine minutes of the period. In the upset of No. 17 Florida State, Randolph scored a career-high 26 points.
Randolph didn't always have that same ability to put the ball in the net.
"I had to be around three years old when I started picking up basketball," Randolph recalled. "My older brothers, Gary and Steven, would be playing around. We had a hoop out in the back and I remember getting really frustrated when I saw my brothers making shots and I couldn't. I guess it was because I was small. They would just laugh when I couldn't get the ball up there, but once I started to get it in the basket they became more supportive and helped me out."
Once she started getting the ball in the basket, she didn't stop. By third grade, she was already a dominating presence on the court.
"When I was eight years old, I was getting 20 points a game in rec league and was the only one on the team scoring. I heard people on the sidelines saying I was a decent player and asking where I got my skills from. My guess is that it was just from playing with my brothers at a young age."
Her ties to her brothers didn't end on the basketball court. Her brother Steven often found himself being followed by a Faith-shaped shadow.
"When my brother would go to a friend's house, I always wanted to go," Randolph said. "When we'd go on vacation and go to the local basketball courts, I would always go with him. Sometimes he liked that, sometimes he didn't."
As Randolph grew older, she got even better, helping lead her Good Counsel squad to a WCAC championship during her senior season. During the summer of 2012, before arriving on Grounds to begin her Virginia career, Randolph was invited to attend USA Basketball U18 trials in Colorado Springs.
"Going to the USA Basketball Camp in Colorado Springs was a great experience," Randolph recollected. "I got a lot of confidence from it. Great players like Breanna Stewart [of UConn] were there, and it was just great to compete against those types of players. If you can play against them, you can play against anybody to be honest.
"When I got there, I wasn't as known as many of the other players. I remember I had two good practices and [USA Basketball assistant coach and current Miami head coach] Katie Meier knew my name without me even telling her. I thought that was a pretty good accomplishment."
Randolph's first year at UVa did not go as she had planned. Even though she was mired in a shooting slump through a good portion of the campaign, Randolph still showed flashes of her true ability during the year and finished strong with a then-career-high 19 points in the upset win over No. 24 Florida State and 15 points in the ACC Tournament game against BC.
Days after the 2012-13 season ended, Randolph was hard at work trying to prepare for 2013-14.
"I put in a lot of work with our strength coach Jeremy Anderson to get quicker, stronger and faster," Randolph said. "I really wanted to get my shot together again because I felt like I lost the art of shooting last year. I wanted to focus on that and finishing at the rim. I lifted a lot with Coach A and ran a lot in my neighborhood when I was home. I started eating better and getting the right nutrition in, so it really helped."
Randolph has served a unique role on the team this year. The Cavaliers' second-leading scorer has only started four games this season, providing most of her points while coming off the bench. Being a "sixth-man" is not the easiest task and one that requires a lot of concentration to do it as well as Randolph has.
"When I'm watching the game, I want to see what we're doing well and what we're not doing well so I know what to bring to the table when I get into the game," Randolph said. "To be the spark plug, you need to see what exactly it is your team needs. It takes a lot of preparation."
Randolph, who will be the first to tell you she has never seen a shot she didn't think she could make, knows that the most important thing for her to do when she gets in a game is find her stroke and rhythm.
"Once the first one or two shots go down, it feels pretty good," Randolph said. "When I see that I have space and I see the rim, I always feel that it's going in."
And more often than not these days, it does.