In her first year with the Florida women’s basketball program, assistant coach Shimmy Gray-Miller is turning to an unlikely source to inspire her unit of forwards and centers.
The Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls, has himself become the moniker of the five forwards and centers because, according to them, his oxymoron of a name accurately describes the players within the unit.
"That’s our Biggie Smalls group. We’re big and small," junior forward Ronni Williams, who at 6-feet tall is one of the shorter front-court players on the team, said.
"We got me and Carla who are the two smallest of the group and then you have Haley (Lorenzen), Ty (Fleming) and Vikta (Dimaite) who are the big ones of the group."
Not only has the name Biggie Smalls the unit, but so have some of the lyrics to one of his most famous songs.
"Sicker than your average" is the opening line to the classic "Hypnotize," and the group has adopted that line as its slogan, going so far as emblazoning it on their matching t-shirts.
"Sicker than your average, so that’s our line because we always just wanna be the most consistent of the group," sophomore forward Haley Lorenzen said.
"People always try to be consistent, people always try to be just average and we’re gonna be sicker than everybody else. Sicker not as in like cough cough — sicker as in, like, the best of the best."
In their efforts to become "the best of the best," the team has been emphasizing competition in practice.
Coincidentally, Lorenzen and assistant coach Bill Ferrara both pointed to the same instance as the marquee moment of this young season, and both felt that it was brought on by the level of competition.
"We were doing end of game situations … and what we were doing is we were practicing low shot clock situations and so we just, we made a lot of fun plays that day," Lorenzen said.
"January hit this crazy corner three, we all ran over, we celebrated. Ronni hit a 12-footer jumper to win the game and then I hit an and-one to win the game. It was just a really fun practice all around."
Ferrara said the combination of intensity and fun made the practice one of the best of the season so far.
"The best part of it is it was several days mixed in practice and then this was like boom, like a hammer," he said.
"The energy and enthusiasm was through the roof as well and so that’s what made it the best practice of the year."
Williams, who figures to be a force for the Gators this season after leading the team in points per game a season ago, said that whether against each other or the practice squad, everyone on the team is bringing everything to the table every time they hit the floor.
"When we compete, it’s a whole different story," she said.
"It’s like we’re going against enemies. And you know, there are practice players, we thank them, we love them to death, but we take it to ‘em. When it’s time to compete, we bring the fight, we bring the energy."
While the team doesn’t open the regular season until November 13 at Temple, it’ll get its first taste of a new opponent on Friday in an exhibition against the No. 19 USF Bulls in Tampa.
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Sophomore Ronni Williams drives down the lane during Florida's 77-42 loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Monday in the O'Connell Center.