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Thursday, April 25, 2024

This sure isn't high school ball anymore.

At least that much is clear to freshman center Ebonie Crawford after the first few weeks of practice with the UF women's basketball team.

Her opposition in the paint will be far different than it was during high school play in Atlanta.

Now Crawford will be matched up against athletes just as big and just as talented.

"I didn't really have too many girls who could guard me or I was getting double-teamed, triple-teamed a lot of times," she said. "That's the biggest difference coming in here. Now you have girls that are your height, girls that are your level."

It will be quite a change as she adapts to competing against players like Tennessee's Candace Parker and LSU's Sylvia Fowles.

A year ago, Crawford looked up to the pair.

Now she'll take them on in the paint and compete with them for rebounds.

Crawford knows she has to work on her low post game if she wants to excel in the paint.

"In the (Southeastern Conference), the girls are faster, the girls are bigger, the girls are stronger," Crawford said. "The game is physical so you've got to get in the habit of posting up big, posting up strong. It's a different game. It's different from high school."

She said the speed of the game is the biggest difference in the college game.

"It's back and forth," Crawford said. "You have a shot clock now. You have to get used to working with a shot clock, running your plays, knowing that you don't have time to dribble all across the court."

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Crawford and junior transfer Aneika Henry, both listed at 6 foot 3, became the tallest players on the Gators' roster from the moment they stepped on campus.

Junior forward Marshae Dotson welcomes the post help.

"We needed it," Dotson said. "It was me and [former UF forward Briana Phillips] that were probably the tallest people on the team (last season). It's a big help for us."

UF's atmosphere influenced Crawford's decision to become a Gator.

"That's one of the things I just loved," she said. "I got down here on my official visit, and I was just like, 'Oh I definitely want to come here.'"

The possibility of playing time early in her career didn't hurt either.

The freshman knew that UF lacked height last season, and she looks forward to making a quick impact on the team.

"I'm coming in now, working hard so that way I will get some playing time," she said. "I know that I will be called upon early, so I'm looking forward to it."

Coach Amanda Butler said a lot of college-level adjustment was made during the summer.

"When [the freshmen] got here on campus in July, we started them in the weight room and started them playing pick up with one another and getting a glimpse not just into the physical nature of ball at our level, but also the speed," Butler said. "That is going to be a huge adjustment for them. Being in shape … and the mental aspect of having to make quick mental transitions."

It'll have to be a quick learning curve for Crawford as she'll likely be called on to log plenty of key minutes.

The nonconference schedule will be crucial on-the-job training for the freshman.

Dotson remembers what it's like when conference games roll around each spring.

"As soon as we start SEC games it's like hitting the wall," Dotson said. "Every year when we get in conference it's a total difference."

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