Last season was the first time the Gators failed to make the postseason in eight years under coach Amanda Butler. A 5-11 SEC record doomed them and led preseason prognosticators to peg UF for a 12th-place finish in the SEC. The Gators have reasons to believe last year was a blip rather than a trend. UF has a strong five-member senior class and only two freshmen, so inexperience should not be a concern. Six players averaged at least 7.1 points per game last season, and five are returning.
Who's in charge?
Butler has a 193-134 career record, which includes eight years at UF. Only two of her 10 seasons have ended with losing records, 2009-10 and last season. On-court leadership should be easy to find. Start with F Ronni Williams, a former McDonald's All-American who led UF with 10.3 points per game last season and has loftier expectations for her junior year. G Cassie Peoples led UF in assists and steals last season, and brings wisdom as a fifth-year player. G January Miller's 742 career points are most on the team, and her free throws helped seal last year's key win against Vanderbilt.
The most notable absence is G Kayla Lewis, the only senior on last year's team. Lewis also led UF in rebounding, finished her career with more than 1,000 points and was the only Gator to start every game. Junior college transfer Tyshara Fleming has size (6 feet 4) and a history of rebounding well to fill Lewis' void.
Although UF was competitive last season, it was among the worst teams in the country in turnovers (19.2 per game). That will have to change for the Gators to avoid a second consecutive losing season. UF's senior class will also need plenty of production from the rest of the lineup. Look for F Haley Lorenzen to build on a freshman season that included seven double-figure scoring games and All-SEC honors, and G Isis Young is returning from an ACL injury. If UF learns from last year's close losses, this season could turn out much better.
The last word
"I can stand up here and tell you all day all the reasons I'm excited. It's going to be a really fun season, a really successful season. This group is fun to work with. They work hard. They love each other. They're proud to be Gators, and it comes out in the way that they work every single day." — coach Amanda Butler
No. Player Pos. Ht. Cl.
1 Ronni Williams G/F 6-0 Jr.
2 Isis Young G 5-7 R-Fr.
3 January Miller G 5-8 Sr.
4 Carlie Needles G 5-8 Sr.
11 Dyandria Anderson G 5-10 So.
13 Cassie Peoples G 5-6 R-Sr.
15 Viktorija Dimaite C 6-4 R-Sr.
20 Simone Westbrook G 5-8 Jr.
21 Eleanna Christinaki G/F 6-0 Fr.
23 Brooke Copeland G 6-2 So.
24 Tyshara Fleming C 6-4 Jr.
32 Carla Batchelor G 5-10 Sr.
44 Haley Lorenzen F 6-3 So.
November — 13 at Temple, 7; 16 Florida State, 5:30; 21 Kennesaw State, TBA; 24 Savannah State, 7; Boulder, Colo tournament: 27 Ball State, 7:30; 28 Colorado/UMass, TBA
December — 1 at South Alabama, 8; 7 Arkansas State, 7; 10 at Wisconsin, 8; 13 Robert Morris, 2; Gator Holiday Classic: 20 St. Francis, 2:30; 21 N.C. State/Eastern Kentucky, 2:30; 30 UCF at Jacksonville, 7
January — 3 Mississippi State, 1*; 7 at Tennessee, 7:30*; 10 at Ole Miss, 2*; 14 Georgia, 7*; 17 LSU, 2*; 21 Alabama, 7*; 24 at Missouri, 2*; 28 at Arkansas, 8*; 31 Kentucky, 1*
February — 4 Texas A&M, 7*; 11 at South Carolina, 7*; 14 at Auburn, 2*; 18 Vanderbilt, 7*; 21 at Georgia, 1*; 25 at LSU, 8:30*; 28 Auburn, 2*
March — 2-6 SEC Tournament
* SEC game
Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer