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Thursday, May 23, 2024

When fans get their first glimpse of the 2008-09 UF women's basketball team tonight, they might notice a few changes from last season.

Probably the most interesting will be how the team performs - at dancing.

The women's team will join with the men's in Shooting with the Stars, this year's version of letting the fans find out a little bit about the players before the season begins.

With practice now in full swing, it's not likely Gators coach Amanda Butler has her team practicing its dancing skills.

Either way, the players will get a chance to showcase their abilities by dancing with the male cheerleaders. Meanwhile, the men's team will get to dance with the Dazzlers.

UF staked its claim in TV's version of Dancing with the Stars when former Gator running back Emmitt Smith was named the winner of the show in 2006.

Aside from the dancing, fans will likely take immediate notice of the increase in size UF has added to its lineup from a year ago.

With the addition of 6-foot-4 freshman Azania Stewart and the return of 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman Ndidi Madu from knee injury, along with 6-foot-3 senior Aneika Henry and 6-foot-3 sophomore Ebonie Crawford, Gators fans will see a much taller team than they have in years past.

Dancing skills and increased height won't be the only things that look different.

UF has added three freshmen and three transfers to its squad, giving Butler and her team a renewed energy.

"Our newcomers have brought a freshness and an eagerness that you expect out of new people," Butler said.

The Gators will return four experienced starters, three of whom are seniors, and a coach who has her team believing it can compete with the top teams in the Southeastern Conference.

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"There's a huge opportunity in front of us," Butler said. "(We) know that there's no shortcut to where we want to go."

UF was picked to finish sixth by the media on Tuesday, but with Butler at the helm, the Gators don't want to settle for middle of the pack.

"The most rewarding thing about last season was by the end of the season," Butler said. "We had exceeded expectations of everyone around us, not our own, to the point the biggest sign of success of our program last year was that we were disappointed at the end of the season of some games that we lost, and that we didn't make the NCAA Tournament and felt slighted."

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