Thanks to some unusual training methods, any school facing the Florida women’s basketball team this season would be wise to think better of starting a scrap with the Gators.
During the offseason, coach Amanda Butler made it a point to get her team out of its comfort zone.
In addition to taking them on a team "attack," because they "never wanna retreat," Butler also had the team to take boxing lessons.
"We want to be tough," she said.
"We want to do everything we can to cultivate toughness and if you’ve ever had the experience of boxing, it’s not just physical toughness … there’s stamina and endurance and skill and technique that is way beyond how hard can I hit somebody."
Toughness is one of several areas UF will need to address to be competitive this year, especially after coming off a 13-17 record that included a commanding defeat at the hands of Auburn in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament by the score of 71-49.
That being said, Butler is quick to point out that last season is in the past and, this team is focused on the present.
"I think a lot of people are gonna make the mistake of forming opinions about our team based on last season."
In order to improve, one area that both Butler and sophomore forward Haley Lorenzen brought up was finishing, albeit in two different ways.
For Butler, the focus was on finishing in close games.
"There were a lot of close losses last year, and losses are losses, but I think that returning group knows how close they were to having a much, much better season," Butler said.
Florida lost five games last year by a total of six points or less. Had the Gators finished those games on the winning side, they would have ended the season with a more respectable 18-12 record.
"I think you’re gonna see a much different team — new and improved — that is unwilling to lose close ball games," Butler added.
Lorenzen, on the other hand, felt that the Gators needed to follow through with their preparation for games. According to her, there were too many times last year when the team had terrific practices but then flopped in games.
"We need to be able to take what we practice and put it on the court," Lorenzen said. "That was a big problem for us last year. We would have great practices and then it just wouldn’t transfer always back onto the court."
The team’s preparation officially started on Sunday when the Gators held their first official practice.
The team has just more than a month to work on those aspects of its game, among others, before facing Temple in the season opener on Friday, Nov. 13.
Unsurprisingly, Butler feels that this team will be ready to hit the hardwood come game time. Somewhat surprisingly, she has some lofty expectations considering where this team was a year ago. Clearly, though, she’s truly embraced that this team is "new and improved."
"I think collectively, this group has a chance to be one of the best teams that’s ever played here," she said.
"I really believe that."
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UF women's basketball coach Amanda Butler Gator Chomps after being introduced at Gators Madness on Oct. 2, 2015, in the O'Connell Center.