With just under a month until the Gators begin play, Florida head coach Amanda Butler spoke at Media Day on Wednesday.
Following a 20-win season and trip to the WNIT in 2010-2011, the Florida women’s basketball team expects more success in 2011. Butler spoke about the importance of her five senior players not simply taking on a leadership role, but also developing chemistry with their new teammates.
“We have five seniors, all who we really respect, in terms of the level of leadership and levels of intensity and just experience,” Butler said. “Our new people have jumped right in and blended in.”
Butler stressed that leadership from her players meant bringing intensity to practice each and every day.
“No shortcuts to anything, to understand that time that we have to put in, to understand that we have to make sacrifices in every way to get better, do things differently than we’ve done.”
For this team, part of making sacrifices means realizing that there may not be one go-to scorer. Instead, Butler spoke about the need for a balanced, unselfish team.
“When you have one person who’s your go-to girl, then your opponents have one person to really focus on shutting down,” she said. “We try to thrive on the idea of having a lot of balance.”
The team prides themselves not only on their balance, but also their overall diversity as individual players.
“We have people that have played a lot of different roles and now have at least a year of experience underneath their belt,” Butler said.
For a team that dropped many winnable games last season, players are hungry to use those hard lessons and translate them into wins this season.
“We’re going to see some efforts and some play where you’ve got some young ladies who are very determined to show how good they are, not just how close to being good they are,” Butler said.
Butler emphasized this is not only a special team, but also a team she feels a special bond to. She recruited four of the five seniors on the team.
“We are chasing a championship together,” she said.
The chase for the championship begins early, as the Gators play non-conference opponents Michigan, Stetson and Florida State in the first week of play.
Butler feels this challenging schedule right out of the gates will prepare the team for the grueling upcoming SEC conference schedule.
“To want more they are going to have to give more,” Butler said. “We have the expectation of winning every night.”
As for individual expectations, Butler made it clear the bar is raised high for everyone.
“I think it’s going to be hard for any of them to exceed my expectations this year, because I’ve got high expectations for all of them, and I think they know that,” Butler said. “A year older for this team does definitely make us a year better.”
You can follow Gator Country reporter Phillip Heilman on Twitter at @phillip_heilman.