University of Florida

Florida Gators women’s hoops high on pride, short on numbers

The Florida’s women’s basketball team can’t even scrimmage 5-on-5, but despite coach Amanda Butler’s squad being so low on numbers, the team is high on hope, chemistry and confidence.

“The team has got the right attitude, the right approach and the right level of determination. We’ve dealt quite a bit with trying to build our culture and having that based on the trust, loyalty and commitment that we have for one another,” said Butler, entering her seventh season as Florida’s coach. “When you see them play together, that really will show through — that level of love and measure of chemistry. That’s what I think really gives this team, combined with the amount of talent they have, a tremendous chance to be really special.”

The Gators — led by senior point guard and local Gainesville product Jaterra Bonds (P.K. Yonge) — went 22-15 last year and reached the women’s NIT semifinals, but they enter the 2013-14 season with just nine available players following the program’s latest slew of transfers (Sydney Moss — UF’s second-leading scorer last year as freshman with 11.8 ppg — Chandler Cooper and Vicky McIntyre).

Florida kicked off the preseason with a united “Perfect 10” mantra, but redshirt sophomore center Viktorija Dimaite tore her left anterior cruciate ligament in practice — her second ACL injury in as many seasons — leaving the team even more shorthanded.

Bonds — who averaged a team-high 13.1 points per game and has started 70 consecutive games for the Gators — is the unquestioned leader of a team that finished third in the Southeastern Conference in scoring (70.6 ppg.) last season, employing a transition and up-tempo attack.

With the graduation of its lone post presence Jennifer George (11.0 ppg. and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game), the Gators will play at an even faster pace this year.

“It will be lot more dynamic,” junior guard Kayla Lewis said. “There probably will be a lot more shot attempts, a lot more offensive rebounds because some of those shots probably won’t be as pretty as normal, but that’s something that is kind of a risk-versus-reward-type thing. And I think we’ll be rewarded more just because of the personnel that we have.”

Bonds’ latest rotating supporting cast includes two transfers — Cassie Peoples (Texas) and Antoinette Bannister (North Carolina) — and freshman forward Ronni Williams — UF’s highest-ranked signee ever. Williams was the top-rated recruit in the state (Atlantic High) and the school’s first McDonald’s All-American prospect.

Florida hosts Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 8 to open its season.

Related stories from Miami Herald