Butler Looks Ahead to Year Three

In two seasons at the helm of the Florida women's basketball program, Amanda Butler has posted 43 wins, earning one trip each to the NIT and NCAA Tournaments. Now she has to transition into her third season without two of the top ten scorers in school history.

Sha Brooks (1,820) is fifth among Florida scorers and Marshae Dotson (1,529) is 10th, but both departing in seniors were more than scorers. Dotson is the ninth leading rebounder (854) in school history, while Brooks is also in the top 10 in assists (9th, 365) and steals (3rd, 242).

Butler knows what a challenge it will be to replace those two.

"I don't know that I'm ready to quite think about life without them yet, but they left a tremendous legacy here. They had senior seasons in particular that they really deserved. I think they set a very high standard of expectation not only for individual performance, but what they expect from this team. Is it going to be tough to replace those guys? It's going to be impossible. There's only one Sha Brooks. There's only one Marshae Dotson."

Still Butler is eager to begin the process of preparing for her third Gator team and rebuilding around Steffi Sorenson (9.2/5.2), Lonnika Thompson (6.1/1.8), Trumae Lucas (4.1/1.3), Azania Stewart (3.9/2.6) and transfer Jordan Jones (13.1/2.8 @ South Carolina in '08).

"Those individuals are very special in their own right. I know they really appreciated all the things they could grow from and learn from competing with and against Marshae and Sha."

Jones in particular is a crucial addition because she is a superb long range shooter, making 40 percent of his three-point shots (97-243) for South Carolina. Jones and Sorenson (39 percent) will team up to give the Gators one of the best long-range shooting tandems anywhere. Butler knows Jones will make an immediate impact.

"I think that Jordan is going to give us another scoring threat. She's going to give Steffi a run for her money in terms of who is going to be the best three point shooter on our team. But she's a much more complete player than just a shooter. She definitely will give us points. She's a kid who can play the point if we need her two, but her more natural position is out on the wing."

Butler signed three players in the early period back in November and all three should help Florida be bigger, literally next season. The Gators add a pair of 6-2 forwards in Jennifer George (Orlando Bishop Moore) and Lily Svete (Mishawaka, Indiana) along with 5-11 guard Cristal Caldwell from North Carolina. George led her team to the state finals this year, falling to Titusville despite her 14 rebounds. George dominated the semi final (20/22) win over Pensacola. Caldwell led her team to a state championship and was the MVP of the finals with 19 points in the title game. Svete's team was upset in regionals but she was first team All-State as a junior.

Butler has high expectations for that trio.

"Our incoming kids are going to give us a little bit more size, and that was one of the things we seemed to battle in the games we lost. When we went back to the film as coaches we could see they were a little bit taller than us here. They were a little bit longer than us there. You certainly can overcome those deficits, but being a little bit bigger on the wing with Cristal Caldwell helps you defensively become a better team."

The Florida Coach also points out that adding two 6-2 players will make Florida look more like an SEC and NCAA team.

"Lily Svete gives us some size as does Jennifer George. I think that we'll see maybe a more true roster of heights that you expect out of a program that competes in our league and hopefully will remain in the top 25."

While time will tell how well the newcomers will play in the SEC next season, Butler says she knows her recruits have all the intangibles.

"As proud as I was about this team in terms of the work ethic and the daily sacrifices that were made; I think this freshman class combined with the players returning we'll have the hardest working team that we've ever had here. They have an unparalleled work ethic, and we you're losing that much talent you've got to be willing to put in that type of daily sacrifice."

Florida will also welcome back senior Jennifer Mossor who was averaging 9.1 points a game before she went down with a season-ending knee injury in mid-season. Butler says there's a chance that she will add another player in the spring recruiting period. Whether or not she does and no matter who it is next year's Florida squad will definitely be bigger. It'll be quite a challenge for them to be better.

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