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Sunday, March 03, 2024

The moment she joined UF's roster, Aneika Henry became the Gators' tallest player.

Naturally, that left the junior center with large shoes to fill - size 16s to be exact.

As she walked onto the practice court Tuesday, Henry seemed a little less shy and a little more battle-hardened than the girl who entered the season unprepared for the spotlight and let her play dip a bit as a result.

UF coach Amanda Butler also sees the difference.

"Aneika's development has been very rapid and a lot of that credit goes to (assistant) coach (Susie) Gardner, who coaches our post players," Butler said. "She's spent a lot of time talking, developing, watching film - time outside of practice just working on her individual skills."

Her scoring has been inconsistent to say the least. Three games have seen her go scoreless while she has reached double digits in four others.

The two Southeastern Conference games have shown a similar disparity as Henry had no pointsagainst Kentucky on Jan. 10 and then put up 14 when the Gators hosted Alabama on Sunday.

"I think we'll continue to see strides in Aneika's game - her shot's coming along and her confidence off of the low block," Butler said. "It will continue to see that growth. I think we've seen little spurts of that here and there."

Even when she's not an offensive powerhouse, Henry has provided plenty of help on the glass and as a defensive stopper.

She currently averages 6.2 rebounds per game and has topped double digits twice, including a 15-rebound night against Florida A&M on Jan. 2.

"She's incredibly gifted from a physical standpoint," Butler said. "She's very bright and she wants to learn and she wants to get better. The combination of those characteristics plus having someone like coach Gardner as the post coach is a great combination."

That game against the Rattlers has other meaning for Henry as well.

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During the preseason, Henry was hyped because of her reported ability to dunk. Though she has yet to produce in a game, she admitted to passing up an opportunity against FAMU.

"I had a chance. I'm not going to say I didn't have a chance. I finger-rolled it," Henry said.

If she gets another chance?

"I'll probably dunk it, because it's SEC now and I want to dunk it on one of those good teams like Tennessee or LSU," she said with a laugh.

She also said Gardner has encouraged her to "want the ball more."

"When I get it, I always look to pass it out," Henry said. "She wants me to score. That's what I'm trying to work on."

Butler echoes that thought.

"She's capable of being a dominant low block player," Butler said. "I don't think Aneika arrived in here thinking that was what she was. I think she's started to realize that."

If Henry wants an example of a player overreaching her potential, she has to look no further then teammate Marshae Dotson.

Dotson has excelled all season, nearly averaging a double-double score despite standing at just 5-foot-11.

She has been part of a team effort to encourage Henry to be more aggressive.

"We expect a lot out of her, and we always get on her about it every day," Dotson said.

The team wants Henry to improve one particular thing more then anything else, and Dotson names it without hesitation, laughing as she does.


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