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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The UF women's basketball team came out to Westside Park on Sunday afternoon to meet with fans and give back to the community.

Several of the players could be seen jumping around on the inflatable bounce-house and getting their faces painted by the UF softball team as they played with children who came out to the inaugural "Preseason Party in the Park."

The team signed autographs, mingled with fans and held a basketball skills clinic for children and other members of the community from 1 p.m to 3 p.m.

"We want to do more for the community because they do so much for us," said Lauren Perkins, assistant director of marketing. "It's a way of giving back."

Cindy Willming, who used to play flag football with UF coach Amanda Butler, came to the party with her 5-year-old daughter, Piper Lyons.

"You can count on them to be family-friendly and fun," Willming said. "I want (Piper) to see other women who are involved in sports."

The difference between men's basketball and women's basketball is that fans get to interact more with the women's team, junior guard Susan Yenser said.

Fans were also able to buy season tickets at the event.

"Hopefully, it will bring more fans," junior guard Jennifer Mossor said. "It's kind of like a chain reaction."

Last season the Gators just missed out on the NCAA Tournament. Off-season practice ends in a couple of weeks.

"We're really confident," Yenser said. "We don't have any weaknesses, really. It's the year to take the program to the next level."

Ten-year-old Leah Paxton said she wants to play on the basketball team after watching the team play. Paxton is a ball girl for the Gators.

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"This is what's needed for the community," Julie Paxton, Leah's mother, said. "To get the community excited about women's basketball and the upcoming season."

Butler said the "last piece of the puzzle" is getting people to fill the stands, and the "Party in the Park" will help the team get closer to the players.

"If they come out once, I bet they'll want to come again," Butler said.

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