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Trust the process — trust superstar Kymora Johnson

The Virginia women’s basketball star is arguably one of the best freshmen in the nation

<p>The freshman leads Virginia this season in points per game, assists per game and steals per game, while having the third-most rebounds per game.</p>

The freshman leads Virginia this season in points per game, assists per game and steals per game, while having the third-most rebounds per game.

When Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton was announced as the sixth head coach in Virginia women’s basketball history, it was known that the program had a long road ahead in its rebuild — losing seasons had been the standard for the past decade. The Cavaliers were coming off of a 2021-22 season that only resulted in five wins out of 27 games, in addition to two forfeited games. 

The phrase “trust the process” comes to mind — a quote that has become synonymous with every struggling sports team in North America ever since it was popularized by the Philadelphia 76ers in the early 2010s. While the current season has been full of ups and downs, freshman guard Kymora Johnson is proving to be evidence of a working rebuild and proof of the effectiveness of “trusting the process.”    

Ranked as a five-star recruit coming out of local St. Anne’s-Belfield School, Johnson got off to a decent start in her first 13 games for the Cavaliers by averaging just over 11.5 points per game. This includes a 26-point game against Fordham and a near-upset over LSU — the reigning National Champion — early in the season. The five-foot-seven guard had arguably her worst game of the season Jan. 4, putting up just six points in a 63-60 loss against Georgia Tech. 

However, something must have clicked after the loss — Johnson has since been absolutely dominant on the court. Since the Georgia Tech game, Johnson has been averaging 18 points per game, and as of Thursday, Johnson’s season averages are 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Statistically, these numbers put the Charlottesville native in the conversation as one of the best freshmen in the country. 

Johnson is currently 7th out of all Division I freshmen in points per game, which on its own is already impressive. However, the statistic that really shows how the Virginia guard has solidified herself as a star is her 5.5 assists per game — putting her first in the nation out of her class. 

For even more perspective, Johnson is averaging more points, assists and rebounds per game than LSU senior guard Hailey Van Lith — who was named as an All-American last season. Johnson’s insane January run also coincided with Virginia pulling off two of the biggest upsets in women’s college basketball this season. 

The first of these upsets was the Jan. 21 game against No. 15 Florida State. Johnson led the team to the program’s first win over an AP top-15 team since Feb. 16, 2017, when the Cavaliers beat then-No. 4 team in the nation — also Florida State. In that game, Virginia was led by freshmen guards Dominique Toussaint and Jocelyn Willoughby, a future WNBA player, who both combined for 22 points in the upset. Johnson scored a whopping 35 points in this year’s matchup. The guard also went 14 for 20 on field goals and finished with seven rebounds and six assists. While four of the other Cavaliers finished with at least 10 points, the whole night was the Kymora Johnson show.  

The huge Florida State win is arguably Johnson’s best game to date, but the Cinderella story wasn’t quite over after their first upset this season. Two games later, Virginia beat No. 20 North Carolina Jan. 28. Just like against Florida State, Johnson led the team in scoring, this time with 25 points.

Ironically enough, the upsets over Florida State and North Carolina account for half of Virginia’s ACC wins. Watching those games, fans couldn’t help but feel as if the Cavaliers were so close to finally contending in the ACC. However, it’s easy to forget that Virginia is not even two seasons through a complete rebuild. The fact that the Cavaliers have been able to beat two ranked teams so far this season signals that the process is working — and that the process will continue to be centered around Johnson. 

The freshman leads Virginia this season in points per game, assists per game and steals per game, while having the third-most rebounds per game. It is not crazy to say that Johnson’s freshman season is a contender for the best in Virginia history, challenging Cavalier legend Dawn Staley’s debut. Johnson is only averaging 3.5 points less than Staley’s freshman season and is already averaging more assists per game. 

The scary thing is that Johnson keeps getting better. Cathy Grimes-Miller, another Virginia legend who has her number retired, ranks second all-time in Virginia women’s basketball history with an average of 15.3 points per game over her entire Virginia career. Johnson is only .2 points per game away from that milestone in only her freshman year. 

Barring any program-changing transfer additions, the team will be Johnson’s to command next year. While rebuilding can be daunting for many programs, it is much easier to trust the process when your team boasts one of the best freshmen in the nation — something Johnson is clearly proving to be. 


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Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.