With sophomore guard Sydney Morang ruled out for the season in late November with concussion-like symptoms, the Florida women’s basketball team has lacked backcourt depth at practice for most of the year.

That is, until earlier this week.

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Gators soccer player Gabby Seiler, who walked on to women’s basketball team on Jan. 4, participated in her first practice of the season on Tuesday afternoon.

The 2017 All-American midfielder was the captain of a Florida soccer team that fought its way to a 17-7 record and an NCAA quarterfinals appearance this fall. Prior to her days in college, however, Seiler was a two-sport athlete at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia.

While playing basketball at McIntosh, she broke the school record — men’s and women’s — with over 2,000 career points, a mark previously held by University of Kentucky guard Jeff Sheppard.

Florida women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer, speaking with the media before Tuesday’s practice, said he’d actively recruited Seiler while she was a freshman in high school and he was an assistant at the University of Georgia.

When he reached out to Seiler and offered her a spot on UF’s team in January — almost nine years later — Newbauer said she was excited for the opportunity.

“The first part of that conversation was like, ‘Do you remember me?’” Newbauer said. “It was kind of funny how it came about when I brought it back up to her.”

Seiler said Newbauer didn’t have to try too hard to convince her to join the team.

“He wasn’t really talking me into it,” Seiler said. “I was all in.”

The 5-foot-5 point guard said she doesn’t have any expectations for her role on the team.

“I just want to be encouraging and just be a positive force on the court and off the court,” Seiler said.

Newbauer said that her role as a practice player for now will bring a new energy to a Florida squad still looking for consistency.

“It’s not about playing, it’s not about winning or losing,” Newbauer said. “It’s about adding value to another team on this campus. She’s just a competitor, a champion that wants to add value to anything she touches.”

Seiler said she dedicated more time to basketball in high school than soccer. She was dressed and on the bench during UF’s matchup with Alabama on Jan. 4 and is eligible to play at any point this season.

 

Newbauer looking for grit from his players against Kentucky

One of the characteristics Newbauer has tried to impress upon his team this season is toughness. He spoke about it at length after Florida’s loss to the Crimson Tide on Jan. 4. And after an emotional double-overtime loss to Ole Miss on Sunday, Newbauer is staying on target with that same message.

“The word has been ‘toughness’ for a while, and that’s mental, physical and emotional,” Newbauer said. “I think we displayed a lot of that on Sunday.”

Newbauer said he hopes his team will continue to carry that mentality into its game against Kentucky on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the O’Connell Center. The Wildcats (8-9, 0-3 SEC) come to Gainesville riding an eight-game losing streak, while the Gators (8-8, 0-3 SEC) have lost four of their last six.

“They’re similar to us right now,” Newbauer said. “They’re kind of in a rut. So it’s two teams that are desperate for a win.”

Follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at mmcmullen@alligator.org

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