Jennifer George says yes to Butler, UF

Fortunately, Jennifer George plays basketball better than she plays golf or drives a golf cart. Basketball is her game and she’s rather good at it. Golf is her adventure, a commune with nature, shall we say (over the river and through the woods). She plays golf for fun. She will be playing basketball seriously for the Florida Gators in 2009.

George is a 6-2 power forward who made first team All-State while helping lead Bishop Moore to the state 4A championship in 2008. She is the second commitment for 2009 for Coach Amanda Butler and the Gators, joining Lily Svete of Mishawaka (IN) Penn, another 6-2 post that will help Butler establish the Gators as a true force on the inside in the future.

“I’ve verbally committed to the Gators,” said George, who sorted through numerous SEC, ACC and Big East offers to settle on the University of Florida. “The big reason is the academics, Coach Butler and the whole opportunity to be a Gator. I just couldn’t pass that opportunity up.”

George plans to major in either business management or sports management at Florida. Coming from the strong academic environment at Bishop Moore, she wanted to attend a school that would challenge her as much academically as athletically and she thinks she found the perfect combination of those two priorities at Florida.

“Florida’s academics are the best,” said George, who averaged 13 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season. “You can’t beat Florida for education and I believe in what Coach Butler is trying to do. She’s a winner and she wants to make Florida the best.”

George has been a Florida fan for a long time. Her first visits to the UF campus were when Carolyn Peck was the coach but even though she loved Gainesville she made a commitment to South Florida of the Big East Conference. That changed when she got to know Amada Butler.

“It’s a family atmosphere she has,” said George. “That’s important to me. Her team is a family and you know she’s there to take care of you. It’s like when she sees you she isn’t seeing a basketball player. It’s like she’s seeing you as you. That really got to me.”

What impressed George the most about Butler from a basketball standpoint were the confidence, the positive thinking personality and the intensity.

“Oh she’s intense,” said George. “You look at the way she carries herself. She’s intense and she’s so confident. She’s always talking positives, too. She’s already got a plan for me to get better.”

This has been a summer of improvement for George, a defensive force best known for her shot blocking ability. Playing for the Orlando Comets Red, she’s been all over the country and she’s seen her game improve on several fronts.

Always a first rate defender and intimidator, George came into the summer looking to work on several areas of her game that she felt weren’t quite what she wanted them to be. In two particular areas, she’s seen noted improvement.

“I wanted to be more aggressive this summer so there were a couple of things especially that I knew I could work on,” she said. “I’ve always been a little bit shy about dribbling the ball, but this summer I got in the habit of starting the break by dribbling out of the pack when I got a rebound.

“Because I sometimes go against girls that are 6-4 and 6-5, I started trying to use my quickness to beat them on the dribble. I step out and when they come out to get me, I use my quickness to dribble past them and get to the basket. Those two areas I think are much better now.”

In her spare time she plays tennis and golf. Golf is only for fun, however. Her dad made sure she had lessons and a trainer, but she says she has an incurable slice that was a constant source of frustration.

The slice is what ended golf as a serious endeavor, but it’s a game she still loves. Only now, it’s just for fun.

And adventure.

“I was playing with Lindsey Watson (Bishop Moore point guard and first team All-State) and we were in some trees,” said George. “I’m driving the cart and I tried to pick up a ball while driving by. Well, I’m looking at the ball and I don’t see this big tree. Lindsey dives out of the cart and yells something. I looked up, there’s the tree. Oh my gosh! I yanked the cart to the left. I almost crashed into the tree! I look around and there’s Lindsey, just laughing. I said, ‘Thanks … thanks a lot!’”

Now that she has made her decision about where she will attend college in 2009, George is going to concentrate on helping Bishop Moore win a second straight state championship.

“We want to repeat and that’s what we’re focused on,” she said. “We should have won the state championship two years ago when we had all these good players but we weren’t really together as a team. That’s what made the difference last year and we hope it’s what will make the difference this year. We’re all working hard to improve but we’re all working hard to stay together as a team. We think we can win it again.”

Landing George is another positive step in the right direction for Butler, who took the Gators to the WNIT in her first year as the head coach last season. With one solid recruiting class already enrolled (Trumae Lucas, Tailor Williams and Azania Stewart) plus transfer Jordan Jones already enrolled (won’t be eligible until 2009), Butler has a solid foundation in place. For 2009, Svete and George give the Gators two more of the kind of building blocks it takes to challenge the top teams in the Southeastern Conference.

It should also be noted that George is a top tier recruit from the state of Florida, which was neglected under the Peck regime. George could be the breakthrough recruit that helps Butler reclaim the state for the Gators.

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.