Amandine Toi loves to run.
She calls herself a running guard. Her brown eyes grow wide with excitement and she can’t hide a grin upon the mention of the fast-paced offense that new Virginia women’s basketball coach Tina Thompson plans to install.
“Fast pace, fast breaks, that fits me perfectly,” Toi said.
Toi left her native France last year to run with the big dogs in the ACC, but a preseason ACL tear relegated her to the bench for the first time in a career that includes multiples stints on French national teams and an appearance in the 2017 FIBA World Cup.
“That was terrible for me,” she said. “I moved here from France to compete at a high level and help the team. Not to be able to do it was rough.”
Seeing the game as an outsider for the first time did help ease Toi’s transition from the European style of basketball she grew up playing to the American game.
“It’s more one-on-one, and less tactical of a game and more physical,” Toi said.
A year in the weight room helped ease the most difficult part of the transition for Toi, the physicality.
“Back home, you don’t have to be physical to play well. Here, if you’re not physically prepared, which I was not, then it’s hard for you to compete,” said Toi, who put on 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and added that her knee is 100 percent.
“I feel confident. I don’t feel afraid, and I think that was important for me,” she said.
The 5-foot-10 guard redshirted last season, so she still has four years of eligibility. That’s good news for a backcourt led by a pair of juniors in Jocelyn Willoughby and Dominique Toussaint, both of whom basically stepped on Grounds as starters.
“She is so quick, she has a great IQ and she has that Euro game, so you can always expect her to do something flashy,” Willoughby said of Toi. “She brings a lot of energy, and you feed off of that as a teammate.”
Willoughby said on the court, Toi can do a little bit of everything.
“She’s just a competitor at heart, and she’s someone who I’m going to enjoy playing with,” Willoughby said.
Toi’s versatility will be on display in an offense which rejects the idea of restricting players to a single position. As Thompson put it: “We have guards, forwards and Fe,” referring to 6-foot-9 junior Felicia Aiyeotan.
“Our system is predicated on the talents of each individual player on our team,” Thompson said. “Amandine will play. She’ll bring the ball up the court at times and initiate the offense, and then there’s time that she’ll play in any of three spots.”
Toi sees shooting (or running) guard as her natural position, but watching the game last season from the bench helped prepare her to also run point.
“My vision of the game is better, and I better understand where the passes are and how the game works,” she said.
Toi has spent time at point guard during the first two weeks of practice. She’s also slashed to the basket, taken shots from the wing and crashed the boards.
“She’s aggressive. She’s not timid at all,” Thompson said. “Everyone knows she’s an athlete and she has tremendous ability. She’s going to be allowed to do the things she does well, so she fits in perfectly.”