Oct. 2, 2012
On Monday, Oct. 1, the Virginia women's basketball team hit the main court at John Paul Jones Arena for the first official practice of the 2012-13 season. The team has been conditioning, weight training and playing pick-up since getting back on Grounds in August. They also had a full team work-out last week on the main court, but October 1 is the first day that teams around the NCAA can begin with full traditional practices.
The three-hour session began with stretches led by strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Anderson. The coaches hit the floor at 2:45 p.m. to begin the practice.
"It's a little bit of building up our defense," said head coach Joanne Boyle about day one's focus. "We are really starting from ground zero and working on that to make sure the fundamentals are there before we take it any further. Obviously, there are conditioning drills, but always with a ball in our hands, and always emphasizing things we can do, whether it is ball handling or passing or pace. We want them to understand how fast we want to play and what that looks like. We are also breaking down drills and giving them pieces of the offense. Not necessarily the offense itself, but pieces. And then continuously doing post-guard breakdown to make sure we are working on our fundamentals and getting better at our positions."
Boyle was pleased with what she saw on the court, especially from her returners.
"It's great just to get the girls together," Boyle said. "They understand the system. They understand the energy and the pace that we want to go at. They have a better focus this year. They are obviously more comfortable. They raised the bar and they know what they want that to look like for them this year. They have come out and practiced that way."
The second-year head coach was especially happy to see guard China Crosby back out on the court. Crosby played in 12 games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
"I loved seeing China out there," Boyle said, a huge smile coming across her face. "It's been three years sporadic for her so just to see her in practice was great. She's been in mostly everything. We are limiting her a little bit but she's going strong. It's really nice to kind of see her out there physically and with her leadership. Her voice carries us a long way."
Boyle wasn't the only smiling a beaming smile when talking about Crosby's return.
"Ah man. It felt great," Crosby said. "Every time I get back out on the floor, it just feels better than the last one. It felt awesome being out there. Words just can't explain."
Crosby has worked hard since her surgery in December to make sure she would be in a position to play her senior year. She credits Anderson as well as Mike Curtis, the men's basketball strength coach, and members of the training staff for helping her develop a plan to get back on the court.
"Probably the second week after surgery, I was in the weight room," Crosby said. "I started off with little weights and that was leading up to bigger weights. I was non-stop in the weight room. That was pretty much where I have been living. I was here all summer working out. I didn't go home at all. I was here in the pool doing little basic drills leading up to the point where I am doing lunge matrix and making sure that my knee is stable enough to do lunge matrix."
The injuries have definitely made her appreciate how much basketball means to her and she is treasuring every moment.
"This is my last year," Crosby said. "I just want to give it my all every practice. Every time we have a meeting. Anything. It is really emotional for me. I just want to show that and prove that to my teammates. It feels great being out there. I feel great and I can't wait for the season to start."
The thing that she treasures most is being back with the team, on the court, playing together.
"I missed those guys," Crosby said. "They missed my energy on the floor. It is a special bond that we have. They are like my sisters. Being out there on the court with them means the word to me."
The team will practice through the month of October, working towards being ready on Friday, Nov. 9 when the Cavaliers host James Madison at 7 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena. The team practices are closed to fans, however, on Sunday, Oct. 21, the team will open the doors and let the public have a sneak peak at the preparations, holding an open practice at JPJ from 1-2 p.m. More details will be posted in the coming weeks about the open practice.
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