Last season, Jennifer George developed into one of the Southeastern Conference’s elite players.

She is expected to lead the Gators again this season.

Tuesday, George was named a preseason First Team All-SEC honoree. She is the first Gator to earn the recognition since MarshaeDotsonprior to the 2008-2009 season.

“It was a big honor,” George said. “I’m just trying to work hard and get my game to the highest I can.”

After averaging less than seven points per game during her first two years at Florida, the senior from Fresno, Calif., developed into an all-around player for the Gators last season.

She had a breakout campaign, setting career-high marks with 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Both led the team.

George put together her best streak from Dec. 7 to Jan. 8, compiling a double-double in eight straight contests. After the regular season, she was named a First Team All-SEC selection.

“She has earned the reputation around the league as one of the best,” coach Amanda Butler said. “She’s worked hard to put herself in that situation.”

George helped Florida to a 20-13 record, getting the Gators back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008-09. The team won its opening-round game against Ohio State before falling to Baylor.

Having lost many players from last season’s nucleus, Florida will rely heavily on George, the only senior, for leadership.

“I expect Jennifer to have a phenomenal year — nothing short of that,” Butler said. “She’s got really high expectations for her individual performance this season and also our team’s success.”

George downplayed the significance of the individual award, instead attributing her success to her teammates and coaches, who helped her develop into a more confident and productive player.

However, teammates were quick to praise George for her accomplishment and for what she brings to the team.

“She’s our best player,” Carlie Needles said. “She did some crazy things last year, made some plays that I’ve never seen anyone do. I’m excited to see what she can do for us this year.”

Kentucky’s A’dia Mathies was the overwhelming selection for SEC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, receiving 20 of the 26 votes. George was one of three players to also receive at least one vote.

As a team, Florida was picked to finish ninth in the conference. The Gators were picked fifthbefore finishing eighth last season.

“It’s great motivation for our team” Butler said. “We’re just most worried about what our ranking will be at the end when we’ve played ballgames and had a chance to prove ourselves.”

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