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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

UF freshmen Ndidi Madu and Kerri Simpson's history as teammates started long before they came to Gainesville.

The pair played together on the Nike Tennessee Flight Silver team during the summer of 2006.

But their distance from each other - Madu lived outside Nashville, while Simpson was closer to Chattanooga, Tenn. - kept them from facing off in a high-school contest.

Still, Madu and Simpson shared high opinions of each other?s skills from the beginning.

BShe was fast,C Madu said about the 5-foot-7 guard. BShe played hard.C

Simpson regarded the 6-foot-1 forward highly, as well.

BI knew Ndidi was going to be a remarkable player because she always had athleticism,C she said. BShe can jump out of the gym. She can shoot. She has all the characteristics of a ballplayer.C

After traveling together on their AAU team, the two struck up a bond off the court, too.

When it came time to decide the next step in their basketball careers, Madu was pleasantly surprised by what Simpson had to say.

BWe were on the phone one day and I asked her what were the schools she was looking at,C Madu said. BShe said she already committed to UF. I said: 'Wow I?m looking at UF. That?s where I really want to go.? That?s how me and her got close. We communicated all the time after that.C

Simpson figured they would always end up going to the same place.

BWe always clicked,C Simpson said of their time at Flight Silver. BWe were always the two together. We just thought that we?d go to the same school.C

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UF coach Amanda Butler expects good things from the Tennessee pair.

BGenerally, kids who come from Tennessee have been very well coached and are used to high levels of expectations,C Butler said.

Of course, Tennessee roots aren?t always a good thing when you decide to attend a rival Southeastern Conference school.

Simpson?s cousin, JaJuan Smith, is a guard for the Tennessee men?s basketball team.

BHe always said when I was able to beat him, I?d be able to play in the SEC,C Simpson said. BSo the day I beat him - it was like two weeks later I committed to Florida.C

Madu has a different kind of memory from growing up playing ball.

When she was 7 or 8 years old, she made a mistake she?ll never forget while playing at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

BI was in the heat of the game, and I just took the ball and laid it up in the opponent?s goal,C Madu said. BI was like: 'Oh my God.? Everyone was looking at me.C

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