The University of Florida women’s basketball team finished their 2011-2012 campaign with an overall 20-13 record. This is the third time in head coach Amanda Butler’s five seasons with the Gators that they have compiled 20 or more wins. The team also made its 18th postseason appearance in the last 20 years. The Gators reached the Women’s Division I NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, but lost in the second round to the undefeated and eventual tournament champion, the Lady Bears of Baylor.
With seven of the 13 players on the roster slated to return next season, the determination to make a repeat appearance in the postseason has already been established as one of the primary goals. Next year’s lone senior in power forward Jennifer George says returning to the NCAA tournament is definitely on her to-do list.
Another returning player is redshirt freshman Carlie Needles, who was sidelined before the start of the season with a torn ACL. Although she wasn’t able to participate in any of the games, just being on the bench gave her enough motivation to want to work hard and get back to the tournament next year. To help her accomplish that objective, Needles says she will be staying in Gainesville all summer to get a head start on her training.
The Gators are graduating five seniors: Jordan Jones, Azania Stewart, Lanita Bartley, Ndidi Madu, and Deana Allen. Jones, Stewart, Bartley, and Madu were regularly found in the starting rotations, while Allen was almost always the first off the bench, earning her the SEC Co-6th Woman of the Year award. Needles says next year’s team is going to have to find a way to make up for the loss of leadership and experience this group takes with them.
Coach Butler has already recruited several players to try and fill those voids. Guards Sydney Moss and Chandler Cooper, both Florida commits, are ranked 50 and 51 on ESPN HoopGurlz Top 100, respectively. Butler also added another guard in January Miller and a 6’0″ post player, Christen Mercer. Moss, daughter of NFL wide receiver Randy Moss, was able to travel to Ohio and watch the team play in-person, an experience Butler says may better motivate her for next year.
The team is currently taking time off from all basketball related activity, but preseason workouts are scheduled to resume within the upcoming weeks.