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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Amanda Butler’s third season as head coach of the UF women’s basketball team wasn’t the charm she was looking for.

A year after a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to eventual-champion Connecticut, the Gators (15-17, 7-9 Southeastern Conference) failed to make the Big Dance this year and settled for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

Different tournament, same story: a second-round exit.

“I’m proud of this team to make it back to the postseason with a lot of adversity with injuries and switching roles around,” Butler said. “That’s the message the returners will be transferring: this is not the end of the season we want.”

And some of Butler’s players have decided to transfer, leaving the program on precarious ground for next season.

In addition to the five seniors departing, three underclassmen are leaving the program.

Sophomore Trumae Lucas, who made the All-SEC freshman team last year, freshman Tessah Holt, who shared time with senior Lonnika Thompson at point guard, and Christal Caldwell, who played just 5.6 minutes per game, will all seek playing time elsewhere.

The abrupt transfers may scare away recruits and could pose a problem for Butler’s coaching staff as it leaves only six returning players next year and just one guard — Jordan Jones.

Butler still has work to do on the recruiting trail though, and according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz, the Gators have the No. 21-ranked class.

“We’ll have a few different [recruits], that’s their strength: put the ball in the hole,” Butler said. “It’s no secret we had a very disappointing shooting year. They can see how immediate their impact is going to be.”

The Gators will most likely rely on an inside tandem of centers Azania Stewart and Jennifer George, who replaced Stewart while she was out with a stress fracture in her ankle and was named to the All-SEC Freshman team, to lead them back to the NCAA Tournament next season.

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