Jaterra Bonds is gearing up for her last season with the Gators.
Bonds, a Gainesville native and arguably the face of Florida women’s basketball, will be asked to shoulder a heavy load following the graduation of Jennifer George and the departure of three transfers.
“This year is the most important year,” she said. “I’m just trying to cherish every moment and make the most out of each one.”
Bonds led the Gators in scoring with 13.1 points per game last season. She also paced UF by averaging 34 minutes per contest.
“Her expectations are always to lead and to be a big factor for this team,” sophomore January Miller said.
With a new supporting cast this season, the offense has been tweaked to better suit the team’s strengths. Florida values its speed as its biggest asset.
“This is probably the fastest team since I’ve been here,” Bonds said. “That’s the kind of basketball we want to play.”
Coach Amanda Butler has made a point of tailoring the game to fit the skill set of her players. What was once a structured, low-block team is now fast-paced with an emphasis on the transition game.
“We’re trying to build an offensive system that makes sense for all the talent we have and trying to give them the best chance to be hard to guard every single time down the floor,” Butler said.
“We pride ourselves on being a transition team and trying to play up-tempo. That just means you’ve got to have five people who understand space and can pass the ball.
Added Bonds: “Last year our offense was more structured. This year we have a little more freedom. That fits with what players are able to do.”
Fortunately for Bonds, speed is a large part of her game. For as much as she was asked to do last season, she will be counted on for more as a senior.
“She set a very high standard for being the best leader that I’ve ever coached,” Butler said.
“The fire that she brings, she backs it up with the way that she plays and in the consistency in how she practices.”
Follow Gordon Streisand on Twitter @GordonStreisand.