Women's hoops experiences mass exodus


Published: Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 12:07 a.m.

UF women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler had little time to prepare for her team’s WNIT round-one game with visiting South Florida. Before her team could take the court for Thursday’s 61-54 win, the squad saw its roster shrinking daily.

Facts

Today’s game

What: Second round of WNIT
Who: Florida (15-16) at Miami (18-13)
When: 2 p.m.
Radio: The Star 99.5 FM

It started last Saturday when sophomore guard Trumae Lucas told Butler that she intended to transfer from the team and was leaving immediately. Monday, freshman Christal Caldwell told Butler she had similar intentions. Tuesday, freshman Tessah Holt did the same.

“I thought about leaving after my freshman year, but I decided to give it another shot,” Lucas said. “But it was pretty much the same. I just wasn’t happy.”

Suddenly, Butler’s bench was three players short. Lucas, once recruited as the heir to Sha Brooks’ scoring throne, was sixth on the team with 5.3 points per game. Holt and Caldwell each struggled to get off the bench during their freshmen campaigns, but Holt showed flashes of being the point guard of the future by spurring the second unit on runs late in the season.

The trio’s announcement came at a curious time, as the team prepared for postseason tournament play, but each stressed that their minds were made up separately.

“It definitely wasn’t a decision that we made together,” Caldwell said. “It was actually a shock when we heard that we had all decided to leave.”

Following the USF win, Butler was brief in her comments on the transferring players, wishing them well and choosing to focus on the team’s second-round game at Miami today. She wasn’t aware of her former player’s presence seven rows behind the bench, where they sat together while cheering their former teammates.

“Basically, I just wanted to play for more of an up-tempo team,” Holt said during halftime of the game. “Nothing against this team, but it just wasn’t a fit.”

Caldwell expressed similar frustration after averaging 1.9 minutes per game during SEC play.

“I didn’t get much playing time, which I know was because I was a freshman,” she said. “I’m sure my time would have come, but I just wasn’t happy with some of the coaches’ decisions in things I couldn’t control. I decided there was probably a better place for me.”

The loss also comes at a crucial time on the recruiting front. With nearly all of the nation’s top 2010 players signed to scholarships, Butler may have to reach into the junior college ranks to find bench help. She’ll also have to lean heavily on her highly touted current recruits, which include P.K. Yonge star Jaterra Bonds and Georgia Miss Basketball Kayla Lewis.

“I know that when I come in, I’ll be expected to play a bigger role since we’re short-handed on guards,” said Bonds, who found out about the transfers during a phone call from assistant coach David Lowery on Tuesday. “That’s fine with me. I’d rather have a bigger role.”

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