One step forward, two steps back — that has been the pattern of growth for the Florida women’s basketball program during coach Amanda Butler’s six-year tenure.
That trend has continued this offseason.
Earlier this month, Chandler Cooper confirmed her intention to transfer from Florida to Lipscomb University. Cooper explained the decision as an opportunity to be closer to home — she is from Clarksville, Tenn. — while also playing basketball in a smaller environment.
However, Cooper cited several other factors that weighed into her decision, including a level of dissension within the program, especially among some of the team’s younger players and the coaching staff.
Unsurprisingly, Cooper has been joined by two members of last season’s team who will not be returning to play basketball at Florida next season.
Both Sydney Moss and Vicky McIntyre confirmed their decisions to leave the Gators basketball program on Tuesday. Neither stated a specific reason or transfer destination.
“Sydney wants to be close to her mom and home. We wish her, Chandler and Vicky the best," coach Amanda Butler said.
McIntyre, a 6-foot-7 center, would have been a senior in 2013-14. She played just one season at UF after transferring from Oklahoma State, where she spent her first two collegiate seasons.
In 2011, two coaches on staff at Oklahoma State were killed in a plane crash while traveling on a recruiting trip. After the season, McIntyre chose to look for a fresh start and ended up at Florida, where she averaged 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing in 29 games, including three starts.
However, McIntyre did not play in any of Florida’s postseason games. Neither she nor Butler offered any reasoning for her absence at the time, and her decision to leave the program was somewhat expected.
Moss figures to be the biggest loss of the offseason.
She finished last season second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.8 points per game, but her greatest strength is the ability to fill up a box score. Often the team’s best offensive threat, she managed to add 6.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per contest during the season.
While Moss made an immediate impact on the team — she flirted with a triple-double in her first collegiate game — her game improved dramatically during Florida’s run to the Final Four of the WNIT. In five games, the freshman led UF in scoring (19.6 points per game), rebounding (9.0 rebounds per game), assists (4.2 per game) and field-goal percentage (57.1 percent).
Moss was named to the 2013 All-SEC Freshman Team and the 2013 Postseason WNIT All-Tournament Team for her performance.
The three departures come in stark contrast to the direction the program was seemingly headed.
After a disappointing regular season in 2012-13, Florida’s run in the WNIT offered hope heading into next season. Moss projected to continue developing into an All-SEC caliber player. She would have been joined by transfers Cassie Peoples and Antoinette Bannister — each a highly rated prospect coming out of high school — as well as freshman Ronni Williams, a McDonald’s High School All-American who could become Florida’s most talented player ever.
Those four, along with the expected return of Viktorija Dimaite, who has missed the past two seasons due to injury, and losing only one player to graduation, Jennifer George, had expectations surrounding the program as high as they have been in some time.
Contact Phil Heilman at [email protected].