The LSU Tigers went to the Final Four with All-American center Sylvia Fowles who averaged 16.9 points and 12.6 rebounds and point guard Erica White who scored 8.2 points and dished out five assists per game. The North Carolina Tar Heels were there in part because of Erlana Larkins' 12.9 points and 9.4 rebounds. The National Champion Tennessee Volunteers got consistent play off the bench from Dominique Redding.
All four of those young women played high school basketball in Florida but went on to collegiate success elsewhere. As Amanda Butler begins trying to return the Florida Women's Basketball Team to a regular NCAA participant there's no question what the number one priority has to be.
Recruit the State of Florida ----- For the past several years very few of the highest rated players in the state gave the Florida Gators much of a thought. This year's best player, 6'5" center Krystal Thomas from First Academy in Orlando signed to play for the Duke Blue Devils. There will always be enough talent in the state of Florida to make Florida competitive, and sometimes great. Establishing positive relationships with the state's women's basketball players and coaches is job one for Butler and her staff.
Embrace the Campus ----- All coaches are competitive, but they shouldn't view each other as competitors. Go to volleyball matches and soccer games this fall. Meet the fans. Get to know what has worked for Mary Wise and Becky Burleigh. But don't stop there. Have Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan talk with your players. Have them watch those teams and the tennis teams practice and compete. The excellence of the overall sports program at UF can be intimidating, but it needs to be a resource.
Play Doubleheaders ----- Use the pre-conference schedule to play as many doubleheaders with the men as possible. It's the best (and cheapest) way to expose your team to thousands of Gator fans who might otherwise never take a look. But ALWAYS make sure you play the second game. It not only lets you take to the court with 5,000 plus fans already in the building, it also allows fans who only come to women's games to attend without having to pay for a men's game ticket, too.
Be Ultra Media-Friendly ----- Do everything you can to make covering your team a desired assignment. If that means finding budget funds for better press meals, do it. If you can offer reporters a ride on a road trip, do it. Make sure that you, your coaching staff and your players are as accessible as humanly possible. Have a pre-season media event. Take part in fan chats right here on FightinGators.com.
Win ----- Posting a large number of victories trumps all of the above. Nothing creates buzz and atmosphere like winning. But winning alone will not get 4,000-plus Gators to home games. It's a big job. Time to get to work.
Butler's Keys to Success
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