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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

One of UF coach Amanda Butler's favorite quotes is, "Your only limitation is your expectation."

If that's the case, then the optimism shown by players and coaches at Wednesday's women's basketball preseason media day sets no limit at all.

Though last year's record (9-22, 2-12 Southeastern Conference) may say otherwise, Butler said the UF rebuilding process might not take long at all.

"I think things are going to happen a lot quicker than most people think they are," Butler said. "[The players] understand that they get to play as a little bit of an underdog this year. We don't want to play as an underdog very long. We'll probably sneak up on a few folks this season that don't expect much out of us."

Butler made a strong impact in her first season as the head coach at University of North Carolina-Charlotte in 2005-06.

She led the 49ers to a 21-9 record, winning a share of the Atlantic-10 regular season championship, as well as earning A-10 Coach of the Year honors.

Last season, Butler's Charlotte team had a 19-13 record and made it to the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

In her attempt to bring success to UF, she has surrounded herself with a coaching staff that will aid her in reaching her goals.

"We have a lot of diversity in our personality and our approaches to coaching and recruiting," Butler said. "But I think that makes us a good staff. … Their fingerprints will be all over [this team]."

Assistant coach David Lowery noted Butler's ability to get the best out of her players.

"She's going to embrace you to do well, but if you screw up, she's going to get you for that," Lowery said. "But she's also good enough to pull you back up."

The coaches said they look forward to Friday, when the team can officially practice for the first time. They have only been able to conduct personal workouts for two hours a week since classes started.

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The practice limit jumps to 20 hours a week this weekend.

"We need 20 hours," Butler said. "Two hours in one week is very hard to accomplish all the things when you start thinking of the big picture and what you want your team to look like (down the road)."

The Gators will need to maximize their practice time. Their schedule includes 18 teams that reached the postseason in 2007, and Butler said it is one of the toughest in program history.

"We want to play against the best, and measure ourselves against the best and find the recruits who are looking for the opportunity to go head to head with the best," she said.

Still, Butler knows UF has a long way to go before being seen in the same light as other SEC teams like defending national champion Tennessee.

"It is a big mountain - it is a big challenge," Butler said. "But if you're frightened by that or you're intimidated by that, then UF is not the right place for you."

The returning Gators accounted for 78.1 percent of the squads scoring and 76.8 percent of its rebounds last season, but Butler feels like this year has the potential to be different.

"Change inspires people sometimes," Butler said. "A new opportunity, a clean slate, a different opportunity than maybe what they had last year. …We've started with generating championship expectations, and then we're going to work to that level."

Butler's passion has been embraced by her players.

"She's always hyped," junior guard Sha Brooks said. "She's always yelling things, talking us through it."

Marshae Dotson has seen it, too.

"She's showing energy and showing intensity," Dotson said. "Why not us?"

During Butler's introductory press conference back in April, she said it was a dream come true to coach at her alma mater.

Now she has set the bar a little bit higher.

"I have revised that over the past six months to say that it is the beginning of the dream," Butler said. "Our dream will come true when we actually are cutting down our nets - when we are putting those crystal basketballs in the trophy case."

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