GAINESVILLE -- Two years ago, as one of six new arrivals to the Florida women’s basketball team, Kayla Lewis was just another face trying to find her place.
A 5-11 guard/forward hybrid from Decatur, Ga., Lewis became the first true freshman to start a season opener since 2005 and made an immediate impact, scoring 16 points in her first two games on a team desperate for a spark after a sub-.500 season. But Lewis has yet to have the chance to turn that potential into production, as several injuries have sidelined her for much of her first two seasons in Gainesville.
Now, coming off of a stress fracture in her right fibula, another in her hip and surgery for a hernia, Lewis, a redshirt sophomore, embodies the makeup of the 2012-13 Gators — the talent is there, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
Once again, the team is filled with newcomers, as Florida welcomes five true freshmen and two transfers to join just five returnees from last year’s team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated by eventual champion Baylor. But with preseason First-Team All-Southeastern Conference power forward Jennifer George (12.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) returning and the nation’s 20th-ranked recruiting class incoming, the Gators believe inexperience won’t hurt.
“I feel like if you talk about youth, then most people give it as an excuse to why you don’t achieve,” Lewis said. “I don’t think that is what we are thinking right now. I think it’s just an opportunity to overachieve. No one expects our team to do much because we are so young. For me, I think the only way we can go is up.”
Florida also returns junior point guard Jaterra Bonds (8.1 ppg, 2.6 apg), junior forward Lily Svete, redshirt freshman guard Carlie Needles and redshirt freshman center Viktorija Dimaite. Needles and Dimaite did not play a game last season because of injuries.
The incoming class is highlighted by 5-11 guard Sydney Moss, daughter of NFL wide receiver Randy Moss, 5-11 guard Chandler Cooper and 5-9 guard January Miller, all of whom were rated as four-star recruits by ESPN HoopGurlz.
Another addition: 6-7 center Vicky McIntyre, a transfer from Oklahoma State.