A year after his horrific burglary, Armaan Franklin saves Virginia with his shootout

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — The funny thing is that no one’s really mentioning it now. Does Armaan Franklin shoot the ball well? OK? So?

Led his team to a hard-fought and in many ways deeply ugly performance on a night when almost no one else in a white uniform shot the ball well from long-range, Franklin fired the Cavaliers to another ACC victory, fueled by his Own Super Efficient Offensive Game? And?

A year ago at this time, Franklin’s performance would have been the talking point of post-game press conferences when the big snack was notable. He would have been asked about his mentality, how pleased he was to see some shots fired, how hard all those misses had been for him, and how hopeful he was of finally getting out of a crisis that had lasted for years.

Instead, Franklin’s Saturday night — 23 points, 9 of 13 from the field, 3 of 5 from 3, a host of key shots down the stretch and in overtime a major reason an otherwise choppy Virginia was able to hold on — scarcely warranted a meaningful mention.

In fact, the post-game chatter was all about how the game typically ended, as an apparent foul on Duke forward Kyle Filipowski – who, on the face of it, would have had two free throws to end the game potentially with a few milliseconds left to win – replay was overturned for vague reasons that nobody at the John Paul Jones Arena seemed to understand, including the officials. There was confusion.

“I would still like an explanation of what happened,” said Duke coach Jon Scheyer about an hour after the game. “We’ll take it,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.

But — as disappointed as Scheyer and Filipowski were by the call — the last game’s odd circumstances in regulation shouldn’t overshadow the rest of the previous performance, especially Franklin’s.

Franklin made perfect sense as the new Virginia Cavalier when he arrived from Indiana in the summer of 2021. Bennett had lost much of the dependable perimeter shooting that defined the team in 2020-21, one that played a whimsical outside-in five-out offensive system: Sam Hauser, Jay Huff and Tomas Woldetensae completed; Trey Murphy left for the NBA earlier than originally expected. Franklin had been an excellent defender in a packline-style system under Archie Miller in Indiana, and he had scored 42.4 percent from 3 to 85 tries, a number Virginia’s staffers expected to translate approximately, particularly if the Cavaliers could consistently play better shots than Franklin’s previous team’s stale offense. The fit made a lot of sense.

Franklin’s first season in Charlottesville was a bit of a disaster. He shot 29.6 percent from 3 for the year and 28.7 percent in the ACC game, but his percentages for most of the season looked even worse and included extended periods of frustration. After a slow start, Franklin began to lose confidence in his own abilities. “It just came to his head,” Associate Head Coach Jason Williford said after the season ended. “[It was]a snowball effect.” Without reliable perimeter shots from Franklin or elsewhere, Virginia’s sluggish offense faltered and finished eighth in the ACC in points per possession.

Franklin showed some positive signs in the NIT late in the year – going 12 out of 23 in three games – and then hit the gym hard in the summer. Slowly but surely, he regained his confidence and came to the idea that each recording is a separate entity, unrelated to the previous one or the next; As soon as the ball leaves your hands, you convince yourself that the whole thing never happened. “You never know when your name will be called,” Franklin said. “You just have to stay mentally in the game — and forget.”

Franklin’s name was called with a reassuring frequency on Saturday. His teammates were generally absent – Kihei Clark threw himself into some clutch baskets and ran the show with his usual panache, but Reece Beekman was 2 of 11 from the field and the non-Franklin Cavaliers were a combined 1 of 9 from beyond the arc – an independent descent.

Franklin has benefited from every Virginia player shooting better this season. (He’s made 40.4 percent out of 3 on a team that’s averaging 37.7 percent, ranking 19th in the country.) It’s a virtuous circle that has eased the pressure he’s putting on himself exercises and vice versa. “We have guys that pick each other up,” Franklin said.

And usually Virginia is much more efficient offensively as a group. It wasn’t a Saturday and could have easily lost to a tiresome and extremely talented young Duke group starving on the streets for a marquee win. That it didn’t was certainly due to a mad call at the end of regulation, but also due to Franklin’s ability to carry his team with timely buckets that kept them viable – no more than a corner 3 with 40 seconds remaining in overtime , which gave Virginia the separation it needed to complete the win.

“I photograph about a million of these,” Franklin said.

That work was the way out of a seasonal crisis so bad it was hard to imagine Franklin ever pulling a team out of trouble again. Incredibly, it now feels almost mundane.

(Photo of Cavaliers guard Armaan Franklin walking to the basket guarded by Dukes Mark Mitchell: Geoff Burke/USA Today)

https://theathletic.com/4186377/2023/02/11/armaan-franklin-virginia/ A year after his horrific burglary, Armaan Franklin saves Virginia with his shootout

Russell Falcon

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