Jaterra Bonds evolves into true leader

This is her last basketball season at UF


Florida's Jaterra Bonds (10) drives the ball against the Tennessee defender Ariel Massengale (5) during a game last season at the O'Connell Center.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 2:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 2:56 p.m.

Point guard Jaterra Bonds enters her final season with the Florida women's basketball team as more than just the face of coach Amanda Butler's program.

She also will be the voice and team leader of the 2013-14 Gators.

"It was evident pretty early on that Jaterra had those qualities that are just present in leaders, whether you believe that people are born leaders or whether they've made themselves that way or been influenced in that direction," Butler said. "She is very vocal, which is not necessarily true of every great leader that's out there.

"She's not afraid to say something if it is going to help her team win, so she's got that ability that I think is not as common in women's sports. You have a really, really strong female who is also very, very vocal. She's fueled by her competitiveness, and she has learned over the past three years of her career how to always channel that into a positive direction and make sure that her fire is not just emotional. Her fire is something that ignites her teammates."

The former P.K. Yonge star was UF's leading scorer last season, averaging 13.1 points per game and earning All-SEC Honorable Mention honors. She also was an SEC Academic Honor Roll member, was selected to the SEC Community Service Team and was named the Gators' MVP.

"This is my last year, and I'm excited," Bonds said. "The time has really blown by. I can remember my freshman year and how things were and how things have changed, and I feel now like I'm more prepared than ever to take on this season.

"Each year, my role has become bigger and bigger, and each year it has evolved. I think I'm ready for that. I'm built for that, and I'm ready for the challenge, so I'm just making sure I'm on top of my game, whether it's basketball-related or even informational. I just feel like I should know what's going on and what's ahead."

Bonds brings a wealth of experience to the court. She has played in all 104 games of her career with 83 starts, including the last 70 games in a row — the fourth-longest mark in program history. Last season, she set single-season records for minutes played (1,258), free throws made (140) and free throws attempted (181), while also setting single-season marks for a junior for games played (37).

Bonds, just the 22nd player in program history to hit the 1,000-point scoring plateau, enters the season with 1,088 points, the No. 21 all-time mark, and stands No. 12 all-time in career assists with 297.

With a similar season to last when she scored 496 points and dished out 125 assists, both career-high marks, Bonds will finish among UF's all-time top-10 scorers as well as the top five in assists.

Ironically, she would pass Butler, a former Florida point guard (1990-94) who currently ranks fifth (401 assists).

Bonds' focus, though, is on her team, not herself — just as it has always been.

"We've always been flying under the radar, so that's nothing new," she said. "I just take it as it is. When we step out on the court, that's all that matters. Rankings and such, none of that really matters. It comes down to who is going to perform the best when the ball is tipped."

Bonds has already earned a special recognition from her coach.

"When you start thinking about all of the players and who is the best this and who is the best that, there's no question that I'm very, very proud of her and also no question in my mind that she has set a very high standard for being the best leader that I've ever coached," Butler said. "The fire that she brings, she backs it up with the way that she plays, the consistency with which she practices, and how hard she works. It's been a blessing to coach her."

Jim Harvin is a Gainesville Sun correspondent.

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