Tina Roy is usually quiet, other than those first two minutes of every home game when she’s on the Colonial Life Arena scoreboard rapping the lyrics of her original song as the South Carolina team is introduced.
The Gamecocks hope she’ll start speaking, loudly and frequently, in the postseason.
“I feel real confident,” the redshirt sophomore said this week. “Practice has been going well, I’ve been knocking down shots, getting extra shots. I feel like if I get in extra shots, whatever I do in practice will happen in the game.”
Roy has played in all of the Gamecocks’ 31 games, starting one. As one of the most experienced players on the roster – Roy, Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam are the only Gamecocks to have been on the past three NCAA tournament teams – Roy offers a veteran’s poise and leadership to a team that is led by its youngsters.
USC needs an elder voice in the huddle but wants more than that from Roy, especially as the season gets into win-or-go-home territory. The Gamecocks want Roy to do what she was brought in to do – shoot.
“If we can get her going again, we can be very, very successful, because she can probably shoot it better than anybody on our team,” coach Dawn Staley said after a win against Georgia in the SEC tournament, where Roy scored eight points, including two 3-pointers. “If she gets hot, it only stretches the defense out and allows us to pound that ball inside.”
Known as a long-range shooter, Roy averaged 4.4 points on 25.2 percent shooting from the 3-point line as a freshman. But in the postseason, she scored 19 points in two SEC tournament games and nine points in 28 minutes in her first two NCAA tournament games.
A torn ACL before her sophomore season sent her to the redshirt list, but this year has been another chance. Wanting to keep her postseason streak going, Roy was much more aggressive in the SEC tournament, scoring five points against Kentucky after the solid game against Georgia.
“I had a lot of seniors on the team, they were talking to me, telling me, ‘Tina, we need you.’ It built my confidence up,” Roy said. “The coaches tell me all the time. I need that motivation so I can tell myself, ‘OK, now, Tina, the team needs you, so get in the gym and get those extra shots up.’ ”
A consistent outside shooter would help the Gamecocks, who have mostly had no problems scoring this year but had a potential red flag raised during the SEC tournament. SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell was a combined 8-for-22 in two games.
USC will have its other options – Welch and Alaina Coates – to depend on, but can always use another hand. Roy on the wing would provide that
As another NCAA tournament beckons, Roy is eager to get to the new arena and see if the shots are falling as smoothly as they have in other strange gyms.
“If you repeat doing something, it will become easier in the game,” she said. “It’s just repetition.”