Sept. 3, 2015
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- When she's locked in and her shots are dropping, Faith Randolph can be virtually unstoppable on the court. University of Virginia women's basketball fans remember Randolph's 26-point game against Xavier, her 25-point game against Ohio State, her 24-point game against North Carolina, her 23-point game against Louisville.
In games when Randolph's touch deserted her, however, she sometimes tried to shoot her way out of her slump instead of deferring to teammates, and that didn't always benefit the Cavaliers.
For Randolph to realize her considerable potential, she must find "that flow and that balance on the offensive end of the floor," UVa coach Joanne Boyle said.
A 5-10 guard from Derwood, Md., Randolph knows that's an area in which she needs to improve, Boyle said, "and I think she's really been working on that, picking and choosing her times to score.
"I think she just has to understand that when it's not her night, she has to find other ways to help her teammates. She can still do other things to help us. She's a great defender. I think she can be a great rebounding guard. She can be out on the floor and not scoring for us and still be a great player."
Randolph, the ACC's Sixth Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2013-14, led the Wahoos in scoring (16.4 ppg) and was a second-team all-conference selection last season. She also was first on the team in steals (1.4 per game), third in rebounds (3.9), and third in assists (2.2). Among ACC players, she ranked first in free-throw percentage (90.7).
"She plays both ends of the floor so well," Boyle said.
Randolph is probably best known, though, for her offensive output. In 2014-15, she led Virginia in field-goal attempts, with 439. No other Cavaliers attempted more than 293 shots.
UVa's attack is likely to be more balanced in 2015-16, and that bodes well for the team. Six of the Cavaliers' top seven scorers from last season are back: Randolph, sophomore guard Mikayla Venson (11.9 ppg), junior guard Breyana Mason (9.5), sophomore forward Lauren Moses (6.1), sophomore wing Aliyah Huland El (5.6) and junior forward Sydney Umeri (2.7).
Moreover, guard J'Kyra Brown, a transfer from East Carolina, is eligible after sitting out last season, and three freshmen have joined the program: 6-3 Moné Jones, 6-3 Shakyna Payne and 6-4 Debra Ferguson.
"We have some great people who are definitely going to step up," Randolph said. "I don't have to [carry] this load of scoring this year. We have a lot of other offensive weapons this year. I'm looking forward to that and looking forward to this season.
"This is the tallest team that I've been on for the four years here, so we definitely have the height. We have [Brown], who sat out, and she's a great scorer. And then we have Aliyah, who has a year under her belt, and she's looking great, and Mikayla, who can shoot lights out. We have a lot of different weapons."
A graduate of Good Counsel High School, Randolph was part of a three-player recruiting class that entered UVa in 2012. She enters her final college season as the only senior on the roster.
Jaryn Garner is no longer on the team, and Raeshaun Gaffney transferred to Xavier in 2014. Another player, Sarah Imovbioh, would have been a fifth-year senior at UVa this season, but she transferred to South Carolina after the 2014-15 academic year.
"Yeah, it's a little different," said Randolph, one of whose sisters, Tiffany, earned a bachelor's degree from Virginia in 2003. "I didn't expect my senior year to be me in my own class. But people come and go, and I want the best for S.I. I feel like she's where she wants to be."
Randolph, who has twice made the ACC's academic honor roll, is a Women, Gender & Sexuality major at UVa. She had an interesting summer. In addition to taking two sessions of summer school at the University, she traveled to Poland in June with an Athletes in Action team made up primarily of current college players.
The Athletes in Action squad, whose head coach was Grand Canyon's Trent May, stayed in an Olympic training center in Poland and played national teams from Poland, Latvia and France.
Randolph said the experience helped her grow not only spiritually, but as a basketball player.
"It definitely did," she said, "because I was close to the shortest one on the team, and they put me at point guard. Here at Virginia, I've always been the 2-guard, and just being there I was able to hone in on working on my point-guard skills, being able to facilitate the ball more, finding the open man, and really kind of trying to communicate with the team as to what we needed to accomplish."
The `Hoos are coming off a season in which they finished 17-14 after losing at Old Dominion in a WNIT first-round game. After that disappointing ending, Boyle said the team's chemistry needed to improve.
"We had some alpha personalities [in 2014-15], and we've talked about that," Boyle said. "The better everybody works together, the less it has to be about personality. We need leaders, but we also need followers, and our best leaders also at times can be our best followers ... The team has got to come first."
Among the Cavaliers with strong personalities are Randolph and Venson, who made a team-high 61 3-pointers last season.
"Two very high-powered scorers out there," Boyle said.
Since the end of last season, Randolph and Venson have focused on "finding their balance with each other and their chemistry with each other," Boyle said. "And I think the spring and the summer really showed that they've had tremendous growth in that area.
"Both of those kids are winners. We just have to make sure we're all on the same page on how to do that, and I think they've really found their chemistry with each other, and they're working on it."
Randolph, too, was encouraged by the team's cohesion throughout the spring and summer.
"I definitely feel that we have a great camaraderie, chemistry for this upcoming season," said. "Just this past summer, there were no issues. We would just come in the gym, get our work done, and then off the court we were friends. We had that balance of really competing hard, and then off the court we can be genuine with one another.
"We expect greatness from each and every one on the team. As long as we can keep that mentality and keep growing from there, I think we'll have a great year."
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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