The ladies’s basketball crew held a digital media day Nov. 18 with the season opener in opposition to Central Florida Wednesday. The occasion featured Coach Tina Thompson and sophomore guards Amandine Toi and Carole Miller, who mentioned their expectations going into the season and the experiences adapting to a preseason dominated by COVID-19. Miller and Toi additionally spoke on their roles as crew leaders. Listed below are just a few key takeaways from media day.
New management roles and positions for Toi and Miller
As the one two returning gamers with vital expertise on the court docket, Toi and Miller will likely be seemed to as leaders for Virginia. Each gamers, who began alongside three seniors final season, have needed to develop into comfy as vocal leaders on the ground.
“We’re a younger crew usually, even with our returners,” Thompson mentioned. “The wonderful thing about our sophomores is that they’d a whole lot of expertise final 12 months, they performed a whole lot of minutes, so I do not assume that it was an issue for them to step into management from a aggressive standpoint. I feel that it was extra simply them being much more vocal.”
Miller, who averaged 6.zero factors and three.6 rebounds per sport final season, additionally touched on her expertise transferring right into a management position.
“I went into highschool beginning with 4 seniors, [which was] sort of just like what I did final 12 months,” Miller mentioned. “Then my sophomore 12 months, I used to be put into an enormous management position main the crew in making an attempt to make them a state championship.”
Following her first wholesome season final 12 months after lacking two years with knee accidents, Toi is adapting to her new position on the crew. Her focus final season was primarily to get by with none accidents. Now, Toi — one of many oldest gamers within the locker room — will likely be seemed to as a veteran presence on a younger crew.
In March, Toi was in a position to get again to her native nation of France, the place she spent the offseason enjoying with the French nationwide crew. Amongst many issues, she talked about studying to enhance her shot choice and psychological toughness — issues she hopes to convey to Charlottesville.
“I feel my huge focus [this season] will likely be to be constant,” mentioned Toi. “I feel that I sparkle generally, and generally I am shutting down.”
Toi additionally talked about that she will likely be altering positions and has been tasked with being the first ball-handler for the Cavaliers. Miller will do the identical — the six-foot guard performed primarily at energy ahead final season however will transfer to her extra pure place on the wing. She spoke concerning the transition and changing into comfy enjoying as a guard once more.
“Taking part in my extra pure place this 12 months has sort of been a problem to refine myself and do the issues that I used to be used to doing,” Miller mentioned. “Assault the basket. Simply get again in my extra aggressive mindset.”
There are ample alternatives for inexperienced gamers to earn enjoying time
Toi and Miller are penciled in at two beginning positions, however the different three spots are broad open going into this season. Whereas it’s anticipated that the sophomores and upperclassmen will play nearly all of these minutes, Thompson will possible look to her freshmen — simply as she did with Miller final season — to make an influence.
After enjoying most of final season outdoors of her pure place, Miller is aware of how freshmen can carve out a task for themselves. Regardless of being severely undersized for an influence ahead, she began 26 out of 30 video games. Miller will look to make use of her expertise to assist the youthful gamers on the crew.
“I am simply making an attempt to … train the freshmen that what I went by final 12 months, it may be you,” Miller mentioned. “So simply benefit from your alternative.”
Nonetheless, as a result of shortened offseason, the freshmen are behind the place they usually can be. Loads of time was spent on conditioning, they usually haven’t had as a lot apply adjusting to the upper stage of play.
“They have been supposed to return again quite a bit earlier than they did,” Thompson mentioned. “Not with the ability to sort of get in gyms and really be able to work and put together themselves to be right here, that was a wrestle at first.”
Thompson expects the freshmen to get extra alternatives because the season progresses. One phrase was reiterated by all three members of the crew who spoke to the media — “endurance” — because the objective is to give attention to the crew’s growth fairly than the outcomes.
“There’s undoubtedly an imbalance and many of the weight is being placed on endurance,” Thompson mentioned. “We now have to be actually, actually, actually affected person. We’re a younger crew usually, even with our returners … so, when you think about that, endurance is basically essential.”
COVID-19 has posed new challenges to beat
Particularly for an inexperienced and younger crew, COVID-19 has introduced many challenges. The Cavaliers have been pressured to regulate to an altered schedule, one a lot completely different than what was anticipated to be performed only a few months in the past. The non-conference schedule was considerably shortened, with solely 4 video games outdoors of the ACC this season, in comparison with Virginia’s 11 non-conference video games final 12 months. After witnessing so many postponements throughout faculty athletics through the fall season, the ladies’s basketball crew is ready for in-season scheduling modifications.
“We now have to take at some point at a time and give attention to what’s in entrance of us and modify primarily based on the knowledge that we get from at some point to the subsequent,” Thompson mentioned.
The Cavaliers have additionally needed to alter the way in which they apply. The gamers and employees comply with the College’s COVID-19 protocols, which embody every participant sporting a masks throughout apply, utilizing a private water bottle and sanitizing after any bodily contact, even a high-five.
“It turns into slightly irritating as a result of we’re teaching issues which have completely nothing to do with the sport,” Thompson mentioned. “Nevertheless it’s mandatory as a result of it is what permits us to have the ability to play, so it isn’t one thing which you could sort of overlook or keep away from.”
Moreover, the crew has needed to modify offensively and defensively as a result of shortened offseason. As an alternative of specializing in particular person participant growth, Virginia prioritized constructing chemistry and getting gamers comfy enjoying with each other. Thompson additionally modified the order of how she taught her offensive and defensive schemes — gamers have been first taught the bodily actions and subsequently realized the reasoning behind them.
“It is sort of been reversed within the sense that we taught them the offense, after which as soon as they acquired the offense, we’re sort of exhibiting them the why,” Thompson mentioned. “I feel day by day, they’re having ‘a-ha’ moments.”
Lastly, the pandemic hasn’t simply affected the crew’s on-court preparation. Your entire crew — each employees and gamers — can solely collect collectively when within the health club. Given this constraint, constructing cohesion has been a problem, as regular bonding actions resembling crew get-togethers and sport nights are not doable.
Regardless of the distinctive challenges the 2020-21 season will pose for the Cavaliers, Virginia might want to overcome on- and off-the-court obstacles to compete effectively within the ACC.
The Cavaliers journey to Orlando, Fla. Wednesday to start their season in opposition to Central Florida at Addition Monetary Area. Tip-off is at 6 p.m and the sport will likely be streamed on ESPN+.