Women's hoops can build off success

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 6:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 6:13 p.m.

Amanda Butler had to work around three major personnel issues in her first season at Florida: The Gators lacked a true point guard, depth in the post and a legitimate 3-point shooting threat.


A look ahead: 2008-09 Gators

Pos., Player, Ht, Yr, PPG, RPG
G, Trumae Lucas, 5-8, Fr., ,
G, Tailor Jones, 5-11, Fr., ,
G, Kerri Simpson, 5-7, So, 0.3, 0.4
G, Jordan Parker, 5-6, So., 0.0, 0.0
G, Lonnika Thompson, 5-4, Jr., 3.2, 1.5
G, Brittaney Thomas, 5-8, Jr., 4.1, 1.2
G, Susan Yenser, 5-10, Jr., ,
G, Jennifer Mossor, 5-9, Jr., 8.3, 2.0
G, Kim Critton, 5-7, Sr., 2.8, 2.2
G, Sha Brooks, 5-7, Sr., 12.3, 3.1
F, Marshae Dotson, 5-11, Sr., 13.1, 7.9
F, Sharielle Smith, 5-10, Jr., 8.4, 6.0
F, Ndidi Madu, 6-1, RFr., 3.0, 3.0
C, Azania Stewart, 6-4, Fr., ,
C, Ebonie Crawford, 6-3, So., 0.7, 1.3
C, Aneika Henry, 6-3, Sr., 4.6, 5.6

All of those issues could be corrected very soon. With three incoming freshmen, the return of injured freshman Ndidi Madu and the addition of Clemson transfer Susan Yenser, the Gators will enter the 2008-09 season with strong NCAA Tournament aspirations.

"I recruited Susan and three freshmen with the idea that their purpose is to make us better," Butler said. "We went to a level this year a lot of people didn't expect us to reach. But at the same time we're not where we want to be."

Butler's first season at Florida, which ended in a third-round WNIT loss at North Carolina State last Thursday, will be remembered as a tremendous success. Butler led Florida to a 19-14 record, a 10-game improvement from the previous season. It will go down as the greatest one-year turn arounds in program history.

Now, Butler is focused on building off her first-year success.

"This team, my staff, I feel like we learned a lot of lessons," Butler said. "We wish we didn't have to learn them the hard way. But we've set the table very well for our future success."

Florida's future is certainly brighter than it has been in a while. The Gators will lose just one senior guard Depree Bowden while adding five players who did not see action this year.

Florida's incoming freshmen class is highlighted by 6-foot-4 center Azania Stewart, who was born in England and attended Notre Dame Academy in Middleburg, Va. The Gators will also add guards Tailor Jones, from Altamonte Springs, and Trumae Lucas, from Greensboro, N.C.

Florida will also welcome two players who were with the team this season but unable to play. One of them is Madu, a 6-foot-1 forward who tore her ACL after one game this season. The other is Yenser, a 5-10 guard who was forced to sit out this season per NCAA rules after transferring from Clemson.

Madu and Stewart are expected to help give Marshae Dotson, Sharielle Smith and Aneika Henry depth in the post. Meanwhile, Lucas could contend for time at point guard and Yenser will give Florida a new weapon on the perimeter.

Butler's first class was carefully constructed to correct the team's weaknesses.

"We'd like to think we've corrected those things by the players we're adding," Butler said. "We were an inconsistent shooting team, and Susan Yenser is a terrific 3-point shooter. We had some inconsistency at the point guard position this year. Hopefully Trumae Lucas can help us. We had some lack of depth in the post. We didn't look like an SEC team in terms of our size. Hopefully we've corrected that with our new players."

Florida will be led by a veteran four-player senior class next season in Sha Brooks, Kim Critton, Dotson and Henry. Brooks and Dotson enter their senior years with 156 combined starts between them.

Butler said one of the biggest lessons her team learned this year is that they can't pick or choose which games or practices to show up for. The Gators need to go strong each time they take the floor.

"One of the biggest things we were able to see as a program this year was that whenever we worked really, really hard we were rewarded," Butler said. "Our players saw that."

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