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Friday, March 01, 2024

Take a look at Kim Critton's stats, and you might not understand why she's considered a key player for the Gators.

The junior guard averages just 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11.2 minutes per game coming off the bench. With those numbers, she wouldn't even hit double digits in points if she played all 40 minutes of a game.

Her coaches and teammates know that a player's contribution is made up of more than just stats, however.

"Kim Critton gives us energy and enthusiasm consistently, every single day," Coach Amanda Butler said. "I think she's probably one of, from the team's perspective, their favorite players because she is just a source of energy (and) is uplifting. She's the kind of kid that her teammates probably always feel like Kim's got their back."

Butler would be correct.

Critton's teammates crack a smile as soon as their fun-loving 5-foot-7 "clown" is mentioned. She always lightens the mood in the locker room and might even mock the coaches to get the team loosened up.

The jokes are quite numerous, they say, although neither Critton nor junior forward Marshae Dotson could put their finger on a specific one that stood out. Critton said it's more of a spur of the moment thing, capitalizing on a funny moment by telling a joke.

Junior guard Sha Brooks provided an example.

"When we come in [the practice court] before we stretch or before the games, and a song comes on, she's the first person to dance, and she does like this crazy dance," Brooks said with a laugh.

Critton likes to make practice a bit easier for everyone.

"If you're having fun in practice, practice goes by a lot quicker, and you have a lot more fun than just going through the motions and having to sit through hearing the coaches talk," Critton said. "You have to make it fun in order to enjoy the game."

This isn't to say she doesn't make any impact on the court.

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The junior specializes in defense and has seemed to find a role as the team's designated stopper. Butler often utilizes her to shut down an opposing player who has started to put a hurt on UF. Critton will sub in for a few minutes of action - just enough time to deny the ball and frustrate her defensive assignment. She admits to pushing herself extra hard during defensive drills in practice because she knows that's what her team relies on.

The junior has had surprising success on the offensive glass this season. Of her 41 rebounds, 24 have come on the offensive end. Many end up in a quick putback and possibly even a 3-point play if she draws contact.

"Sometimes I'm like, 'Wow, I just got that rebound,'" the 5-7 guard admits with a laugh.

One thing's for sure - when number 15 checks in, so does an added spark.

"I'll be waiting for [Coach Butler] to call my name," Critton said. "Every time I get in, I feel like I put out a lot of energy because I reserve it for so long until it's time for me to perform."

Added Brooks: "She knows that when she gets out there that she's our hype man."

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