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Florida Women’s Basketball Holds Media Day to Preview 2010-11 Season

By: UF Sports Communications
By: UF Sports Communications

Gainesville, FL - University of Florida women’s basketball head
coach Amanda Butler and members of the 2010-11 team talked with the
media on Wednesday and previewed the upcoming season.

The Gators’ 2010-11 roster features just one senior in Ebonie
Crawford (Decatur, Ga.) along with six newcomers aiming to reach the
postseason for the fourth consecutive year under Butler, whose 58 wins
are the most through the first three years of any coach in program
history.

Coach Butler’s opening remarks to the media:
“It’s just a really exciting time for us for a lot of reasons. Any
time in a coach’s life that you get to start practicing, that’s an
exciting day. You put these recruiting plans together and you try to
bring kids in that complement one another as players and with their
personalities. To actually put it on the court and see how it works is
exciting. It’s really exciting to have the response that we have had
the last five practices. We have a little bit different practice
schedule – a new rule that allowed to start official practices last
week. I just really like what we’ve seen and I have been really
encouraged by our newcomers. Our returners have done a fantastic job of taking the reins and leading and guiding those new kids because they
know they’re going to be a very important part of everything that
takes place this season.

“Azania Stewart had a fantastic summer competing with Great Britain
basketball and I think that really got her thinking like a champion,
playing against the best people in the country. I think she came back
with a really focused idea of what she wanted this year to look like for
her. We have one senior in Ebonie Crawford and I think Ebonie really,
really has done a fantastic job of embracing the role of being not only
a senior leader, but being the only senior leader, which I think is a
challenge so time. She is definitely the right woman to handle all those
responsibilities.

“The freshmen have done a great job of acclimating themselves to our
expectations. They’re eager and just little sponges wanting to be
coached and learn, and figure out how they can contribute to us winning
a championship has been very encouraging. Jennifer George is coming off of an All-SEC freshman season and she knows the expectations for her are high. Jordan Jones, being our most experienced guard and our only returning guard, she knows that her role is very, very important.
Everyone in that junior class in particular class, in particular, knows
that they have to really step up and help Ebonie lead, and try to carve
out bigger roles for themselves on the floor this season.

“I’ve just been really encouraged by the speed of practice, the
intensity of practice, their response to our challenges, handling
mistakes, which you expect to happen this time of year. They’re very
eager to learn and are just trying to be on the court as much as they
can. From a coach’s standpoint, that’s what you want – kids that
you have to kick out of the gym, not ones that you have to drag in. We
definitely have a bunch that embody that this year. I am just really
excited. We are continuing to work hard every day and I think we have
got the ingredients to have a really special season.”

On what she is expecting the team dynamic to be like in the 2010-11
season, and how the newcomers will fit into the rotation …
“They will immediately be in the rotation – some of them –
because we don’t have a lot of returning guards. I don’t necessarily
think that’s a negative thing at all. I think that one of the things
that has been exciting for us as coaches is just how the newness feels.
It has really just invigorated our team and is really just a shot in the
arm. It has just brought a lot of positive energy that is very evident
just with the personality of our team. Even when they take the practice
court, it just feels different and I think they want more than any other
team than I have coached her so far. That’s rewarding because that was
how we recruited them – to come here with a championship expectation
and to want more for our program than has ever been done here.

On who she expects the team’s starting point guard to be …
“Our point guard responsibilities have been shared primarily between
Jaterra Bonds and Lanita Bartley. I think those two are very, very
capable. It’s exciting when you have one great point guard on your
team, but when you have two that are capable of doing it and complement each other as well as they do, it really gives you a lot of options. That’s what we’re exploring right now – how vast those options
are. They certainly make us a lot faster and a lot more challenging team
to guard off the dribble. The tempo with either one of them at the point
is very fast. They’re learning the ropes and what their coaches
expect. We’re adding more and more structure every day, but I think
the most exciting thing about them as a pair at the point guard is
defensively what they are doing and the tone that they’re able to set
with their ball pressure.”

On junior guard Jordan Jones and her expectations for the upcoming
season “Jordan is a competitor. We did not accomplish our team goals that we wanted to last year and I think, as an individual, that she did not
accomplish all that she’s capable of. For me, that’s really
encouraging. I think I would be a little bit dissatisfied with her
intentions for this year if she felt like she did everything that she
wanted to do last year. But that doesn’t surprise me at all, about
Jordan’s sentiments. I think she has an outlook for this year where
she’s more experienced. She had one season of SEC ball under her belt
before she came to us, but I think when you have one season and it’s
as a freshman, there’s a little bit of naivety in that. You’re kind
of just out there playing and don’t know any better. Last year for her
was a struggle in a lot of ways, but I think she learned a lot from it
and I think we’re going to benefit from those lessons this year. One
of her summer goals was to shoot more shots and more 3s than any other SEC guard and she felt like she accomplished that goal. There’s no other way for us to know that other than her own piece of mind and
feeling like that she did what she set out to do. I think we’ll
certainly reap the benefits of that this year, but she’s playing very,
very well. We stat out practice every day and she was our leading scorer the other day with 39 points. We give out an award at the end of every practice and every game called the Brick House Award and she was our Brick House. She has really shown that she has taken it to another level this year.”

On hiring new assistant coach Murriel Page …
“It was really just kind of the unique timing of someone that I’ve
always considered as an option to join our staff here. We just kind of
had to wait for Page to decide that it was time for her to stop being a
basketball player. She certainly had the opportunity to continue her
professional career and the timing of us having an opening and it being
a unique time later in the summer, she was coming into town to visit and everything just fell into place. It just felt right. I had no
hesitations on my part asking her to come back and help us do the things that we haven’t been able to do. She is just a great fit for our
program in every way - her personality, her knowledge of the game, her
experience as a professional and, more than anything, her passion for
the Gators. She has come right in and made an immediate impact. It has been like she has been here all along and it feels really good.”

On leadership with having just one senior on this year’s team …
“I think the newness of the group that we have this year is not a
negative at all. That’s not taking anything away from the young ladies
who graduated last year. There’s no question that just because you
have a certain number of juniors or a certain number of seniors, that
does not insure that you will play more experienced or have more
leadership. I think, right now at this moment, what we needed in our
program was some newness and a different look – an ability to play a
different way. I think where we are right now with the players that we
have, the newness is exactly what we need and is going to be a big
springboard for everything that happens from this point forward.”

On the team’s desire for toughness and whether Murriel Page has
helped bring that to the team … ”Definitely – Murriel and everybody else on the staff know that is something that we aspire to have as a characteristic of this program on both ends of the floor. When folks come in here to play us, we want them to really feel our toughness in every regard and that when they play us that it’s a battle. We’re never going to play finesse basketball here while I’m the head coach. I think our new group knows that. It has become something that has become a little bit more expected right from the get-go. I have seen a lot of toughness in our first five practices and it gets me excited.”

On what she has seen from Murriel Page that made her special as a
player and will make her a great coach … “As a player, what made her successful, was that she was an incredible rebounder. She just had a knack for the ball. She was a really tough athlete and she also was a fantastic teammate. When you find someone who has been able to have a successful professional career that spans 10-11-12 years, it’s because they’re talented, but it’s also because they make that locker room better, whatever that locker room is. I think those qualities about Murriel also are the ones that spill over into why she will be a great coach. She is a very good communicator, she knows the game very well, she really has a heart for other people and, when that’s her intention, she is able to communicate effectively, she is going to be able to teach well, she is going to be able to reach kids and motivate them. She is going to have the credibility to say ‘Look at me, look at what I did and I did it wearing that uniform and I want to help you get not only to where I did, but go even further.’ She was on that team that went as far as any team has ever gone here, two points away from the Final Four. There’s a long list of qualities that make me feel really good about Murriel being in our program. She is going to be a fantastic coach – she is already a fantastic coach. She is very, very good at relationships and I hope that she not only starts her coaching career, but maintains her coaching career here for a long, long time. I think with her passion for the Gators, that won’t be hard to accomplish.”

On Azania Stewart battling through injuries and how her international
play this summer affected that …
“We talked about that a lot. The physical challenges were obvious.
She wasn’t going to get a lot of rest time or take two or three weeks
just to give the stress fracture a little more rest. Our doctors and
medical staff felt very, very good about where she was when she left in
the spring and that she could handle things throughout the summer. She had a very good summer and learned a lot of lessons. She really gained a different perspective, being the youngest player on that team and that kind of reminded her of what our freshmen maybe feel like – I think that made her more effective in leading those guys. Azania is a
competitor and her desire to be a champion each year has just grown. I
think her experience this summer has just added to that. She knows that toughness is something that her coaches expect out of her and it’s
something that her teammates look to her to demonstrate. She’s also in
great shape and, when you’re in great shape, the injuries tend to come
a little less often. Hopefully that will be the case this year. She’s
doing fantastic.”

On what it says about Jaterra Bonds playing in her hometown of
Gainesville …
“I think you’ve got to have tremendous guts to be in a place like
Gainesville and have the courage to stay here. She is a very well known
Gainesvillian, especially in the sports circles, and for her to subject
herself to that and to be part of a program that is stepping up and
saying they want to win championships, speaks volumes about her and the type of competitor that she is. She cannot stand to lose a possession and really gets frustrated when things don’t go perfectly because she just wants to win and compete and the highest level. She is going to make a huge impact for us and I’m just really glad she had enough guts to stay at home and make that decision.”

On whether or not she feels closer to the goals she set forth for the
program upon her hire …
“I feel like we are closer to achieving those goals. Our team knows
how I feel about it and what my expectation is. We had a conversation
about it yesterday. We don’t have goals that change every year.
We’re trying to be the best – that’s what we’re trying to be
every year and that’s not going to change. I certainly feel like, five
days in, that we have a chance to be a very good team and we have a
chance to talk about those things that are months away. Our kids’
heads are in the right places.”

On her expectations for junior guard Lanita Bartley …
“The summer is an interesting time for us because, as coaches, we
don’t get to have any basketball interaction with them at all. They
condition on their own, lift on their own and play pick-up on their own
and I think, even from this summer, the first couple weeks of them all
being here together, Lanita did a great job of coming right in and
showing everyone that she was capable of leading the team from the
point-guard position. Her speed with the ball is really unmatched. She
is really unique at that position. When you look at a smaller point
guard, she’d better be fast, because she is going to be playing
against some kids where she’s going to give up a few inches. She is a
really, really intense competitor. She is a scoring point guard. She
needs to learn to play the position in the way that I want her to play
it and I’ve got to learn to coach her in such a way that she plays how
I want her to, but I don’t take away the things that make her special.
That’s what we’re working on right now. Her speed and how quickly
she gets the ball from end to end, I’m very confident this year with
having Lanita with the ball in her hands.”

On her expectations for freshman forward Deaundra Young …
“Deaundra had a unique beginning. She had a procedure performed this
summer where she had some sweat glands removed and it’s really kind of an odd surgery to have. Her range of motion in her arms has been
limited, so she’s been practicing since everybody else has been
practicing, but not really able to rebound and reach above her head, and
has not been able to shoot until yesterday. She went 4-for-4 from the
floor with not being able to shoot since May. That was pretty
encouraging. Deaundra has just tremendous feel for the game. When
you’re describing a player who has been in practice every day but
she has not been really able to rebound balls above her head and she has not been able to shoot, but then to say she has been playing great, I think that gives you an indication of what Deaundra’s potential is.
She has a great feel for the game. She is very coachable, a strong kid
and a competitor. We’ve got all of this competitiveness in all these
kids. She has done a fantastic job. When you come to a college and
you’re not able to do what everybody else is doing, but to stay
positive and to stay hungry and not get down, I think she certainly has
done a great job of that. I am really proud of how mentally tough she
has been during a really tough start. Now she is getting a chance to see
a little bit of those rewards.”

On freshman guard Kayla Lewis …
“Kayla is a tremendous athlete. When we see her play, we are
impressed by the things she can do athletically. She’s one of these
kids who can tip in rebounds and make some plays that other kids
can’t. The thing that’s more impressive about Kayla is her
spirit, her attitude and her approach to every day and everything that
she does. She truly, truly is a champion and won a few championships at Southwest DeKalb. It’s a tough area for us to get kids out of, but I
think Kayla saw an opportunity to come to Florida when she could have
gone to some other places that maybe have had more success
traditionally. They were confident enough and could see what we see as
coaches and the opportunity to be the reason why we have our first
championship here. She is a really unique kid and a very versatile
athlete. She can play the 3 or the 4. We’ve been playing her more at
the 3, but it’s certainly possible that she could slide over and play
the 4 at some point. She is at the top of the list when you talk about
eagerness as well, and really wanting to put her best effort out there
every single day.”

On redshirt freshman Lily Svete sitting out last year …
“It was heartbreaking. It was really tough because she is such a hard
worker. I don’t know that I’ve coached any other kid that works that
hard. Brittany Shine is running a close second right now to Lily. Those
two are probably going to battle for hardest worker. It’s amazing how
much time she puts in in the gym. As disappointing as it was, she really never skipped a beat. That work-ethic – what we saw in her rehab and her commitment to being even better than she was before and we’re
certainly seeing that in the way she has performed this year. I think
it’s going to be a really interesting side battle to see who is going
to be a better shooter on our team – her or Jordan Jones – because
she can flat-out shoot the ball. She has worked really, really hard on
her ball-handling. The decision-making part of the game unfortunately is
one of the things that she didn’t get to improve last year because she
wasn’t on the court, but every other part of the game that she could
work on, she did. She’s going to be ready to go. Lily may be one of
those kids that we have to pull back the reins because she’s going so
hard, but that’s certainly a good problem to have. I’m just happy
for her to have the chance to compete again, and I know she’s going to
make her mark this year.”


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