Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro senior Victoria Florence has been the consummate point guard as the Lady Cardinals try to make another long playoff run.
JONESBORO — Some things Victoria Florence doesn’t have to get used to.
Like finding her sweet spot on the floor to shoot from — the left elbow behind the three point line. Or handling the basketball in pressure situations.
Points per game
Assists per game
Steals per game
Rebounds per game
That’s what point guards do. Or “floor generals,” according to Jonesboro coach Lamar Harris.
But vocal leadership is also one of the traits of a good floor general.
And that’s where the uncharted territories begin for Florence.
“That’s something I’m not used to doing,” Florence said. “But I had to speak up and talk more this year. I’ve always tried to lead by example. But now I’m talking and encouraging teammates more.”
So would Florence classify herself as being shy?
“Sometimes,” she said. “But not really.”
There is no shyness when she has the basketball in her hand.
The 5-foot-3 guard is among the most dangerous 3-point shooters in the Southern Crescent. And in addition to her 12.1 points per game average, she’s also dishing out 3.3 assists and snagging just over three steals a game.
It’s that latter stat that Florence said she’s most proud of. Its also the that part of her game that Harris said she’s most improved.
“Everybody knows she can shoot,” Harris said.
After seeing Florence connect on 6-of-7 shooting behind the arc in an exhibition game, Harris felt it was time to challenge his point guard in a new way.
“She started the season the right way,” Harris said. “And when I saw that first performance, I told her I wanted her to help perfect the offense. She understands her role, but she’s definitely improved the most on defense.”
For all of her offensive prowess, Florence said she knew heading into this season that she would have to shore up her defense in order to take her game — and more importantly her team — to the next level.
Those 3.1 steals per contest represent an increase in her aggressiveness, not to mention foot speed. She wanted to do more footwork drills. She wanted to defend Jonesboro fastest player — Florence said that title belongs to senior guard Raven Wynn — regularly in practice.
And according to Harris, she also began to gain a better grasp of the inner workings of team defense.
“She’s more confident this year,” Harris said. “And it’s allowed her to get over that hump. She’s got a better understanding of her supporting cast. She understands that even if she gets beat on a play there will be others to rotate over for help.”
It is that team concept that Florence said has helped Jonesboro become a state title contender once again — just one season removed from a state semifinals berth.
It’s her love for team that makes her put her college decision making plans on the backburner until the season is over.
And it’s that team love that coaxes her out of her quiet comfort zone to speak up when her teammates need her most.
Her leadership showed in last Saturday’s Region 4-AAAA championship game against Woodland after Harris drew two technical fouls and an ejection.
After the ejectin, it was Florence who helped pull her team back together to focus on the task of winning a region title.
“That Woodland game, we were just frustrated as a team,” she said. “You could see tension rising and tempers flaring. It was almost like they didn’t want us to win. But when something like that happens to your coach, you have to speak up to let him know you’ve got his back.”
Harris knows. And he believes the other Lady Cardinals know by now as well. For a player who has the pure shooting ability to be a top scorer, Harris said Florence’s priorities are greater than personal acheivement.
“She’s very selfless,” Harris said. “She makes you into a better ball player. A lot of kids that play want to be the team’s stats leaders or they want to be the top scorer in the state.
“But she’s more concerned with making her team the best team. It’s not about stats for Tori. It’s all about creating opportunities for everyone else to be successful.”
When the season is over, Florence said she’ll make a college choice between High Point and Gordon State.
She said she wants to major in sports medicine and become a physical therapist. But for now, Florence said those plans can wait — hopefully for four more games.
“We’re just want to focus on getting back to the final four and winning state,” she said. “We want a state championship.”