Butler: UF has chance to be special

Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 7:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 7:54 p.m.

Despite attrition and injuries leaving her team short on numbers again, Florida coach Amanda Butler, who is entering her seventh season at UF, is upbeat about her 2013-14 squad.

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Florida women's basketball coach Amanda Butler speaks to reporters during media day on Wednesday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

After all, it's about quality, not quantity.

“This team has the right attitude, the right approach, and the right level of determination,” Butler said at UF's media day on Wednesday.

“I think when you see them play together, then that will really show through — that level of love and extra measure of chemistry that really gives this team, combined with the talent they have, a tremendous chance to be very special.”

A half-dozen players return from last year's 22-15 team that reached the WNIT semifinals, led by senior point guard Jaterra Bonds, a former P. K. Yonge star and UF's floor general who averaged a team-high 13.1 points per game last season as well as a team-high 34 minutes per contest.

She brings a wealth of experience, having played in all 104 games of her career including 83 starts — the last 70 of them in a row.

“Each year, my role has become bigger and bigger,” Bonds said. “I'm built for that. I'm ready for the challenge.”

Also returning are senior Lily Svete, redshirt junior Kayla Lewis, redshirt sophomore Carlie Needles and sophomores January Miller and Christin Mercer.

A seventh returnee, redshirt sophomore Viktorija Dimaite, suffered a torn ACL in practice Oct. 5 and is out for the season. It marks the third straight year the 6-4 Lithuanian native and former area standout for The Rock School has been sidelined by a preseason ACL injury.

“Unfortunately, it will be another year until we see her debut, but I know that she will come through quickly and rehab hard, and her team will stand by her side,” Butler said.

That injury, on top of the offseason losses of three players (freshmen Sydney Moss and Callie Cooper, and junior Vicky McIntyre) who left the program, leaves Butler with a nine-player roster for the second straight season.

Three new players — freshman Ronni Williams from Daytona Beach, the first McDonald's All-American to sign with UF out of high school, and transfers Cassie Peoples (Texas) and Antoinette Bannister (North Carolina) — all figure to have an impact.

“There's a lot of new Gators, new faces,” Butler said. “Obviously there's been a lot of talk about Ronni Williams, and she has been fantastic. As a freshman, she's already established herself as a very important person on this team.

“The two other young ladies that are debuting as Gators, Cassie Peoples and Antoinette Bannister, are transfers that sat out last year who are also starting out their careers here, and I think you're really going to enjoy watching them.”

UF opens the season against Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 8.

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