Veteran gets chance to start for UF women's team

Published: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 7:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 7:54 p.m.

Now in her fourth year at Florida, redshirt junior forward Lily Svete has worked her way into a starting role for coach Amanda Butler's Gators, who will take their two-game winning streak and 7-3 record to Philadelphia, Pa., to play La Salle University (1-8) on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Svete, who had previously never started a game at UF, is one of only two Gators, along with junior point guard Jaterra Bonds, to have started all 10 games this season.

“It's very exciting,” Svete said. “I have had to wait my turn, but I've always worked hard to get the minutes and try to help the team.”

As a true freshman, Svete, who graduated as the all-time leading scorer (1,314 points) from Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., and is just the fourth UF player from the Hoosier State, tore her ACL in the fourth game of her college career. She missed the rest of the season after knee surgery, receiving a medical redshirt.

“You definitely appreciate playing the game more after it's been taken away from you,” she said. “I played basketball all year-round since I was ten years old, so to have it be gone all of a sudden was really depressing.”

The past two seasons, Svete has been a role player for UF, fighting for every precious minute of playing time. As a redshirt freshman (2010-11), she played in 31 of 35 games, averaging 1.9 points and 0.9 rebounds a game in an average of just 6.7 minutes per contest on the floor.

Last season, she played in 32 of 33 games and her numbers improved slightly, averaging 2.3 points and 1.0 rebounds in 8.7 minutes of action.

But this Lily really started to bloom down the stretch, scoring in double-digits (12 points) for the first time in her career in a loss to perennial SEC power Tennessee in late February and playing well in both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments.

This year, Svete's playing time has almost doubled (16.7 minutes a game), and she has been solid, upping her scoring average to 4.8 points and her rebounding mark to 1.9 boards a game for a team with multiple scoring threats while posting UF's best 3-point shooting percentage (41.4, 12-of-29).

She upped her career-high to 14 points in the Gators' 87-62, Dec. 4 win over Troy, knocking down 4-of-5 shots from beyond the arc.

“Lily is unlike any kid that I have ever coached,” Butler said. “She is just a tireless worker, and she's an inspiration to her teammates and her coaches in that regard.

“We're asking a lot more of Lily this year. We're not just asking Lily to play the four (power forward) and knock down threes. She's playing a little bit of the three (small forward) for us and being more of a defender and a rebounder. She knew that challenge was coming and was ready for it.”

Expect more of the same as the season progresses.

“I feel confident because I have played in this conference,” Svete said. “It's the hardest conference to play in and I've played in it for the past two years, so I'm confident in my abilities.”

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