As the Florida Gators athletics season winds down, we look back at some of the best athletes for the university. Our panel of Mark Stine, Chris O’Brien, Dylan Rudolph, Alanis Thames and Andrew Huang selected its nominees for the alligatorSports Athlete of the Year award:
Mark: The SEC qualified all 13 of its teams in the 2018 NCAA Tournament and is arguably the toughest conference in Division I softball. Despite playing in such a difficult conference, UF left fielder Amanda Lorenz received SEC Player of the Year and First-Team All-America nods.
Lorenz led Florida in virtually every offensive category, including batting average (.416), slugging percentage (.753) and RBIs (61). She also finished first in the SEC in on-base percentage (.582), walks (70) and doubles (19).
The junior from Moorpark, California, powered the Gators with her ability to reach base, which she did safely in all of Florida’s 67 games. She scored 75 runs and accumulated 134 total bases, marks good for second and fourth in the SEC, respectively.
The left fielder also has a reliable glove. She committed only one error during the 2018 campaign while displaying her ability to run down fly balls and make improbable outs. In the second inning against Kentucky on March 11, Lorenz snagged a softball sailing over the wall in foul territory. She stole an out for her pitcher and helped UF earn a sweep of the Wildcats.
With her senior season remaining, it’ll be interesting to see if Lorenz can possibly improve her statline in 2019.
Chris: So many great athletes here this year, it was really difficult picking just one.
But after joining the Florida Gators women’s golf team midseason and tearing up the course, my vote is Sierra Brooks.
Brooks, a sophomore transfer, burst on the scene at UF after a tough start to her collegiate golf career at Wake Forest.
In her very first tournament as a Gator, the Sorrento, Floridam, took over the alpha spot on the team with a win at the Florida Challenge in Lecanto, Florida.
That win wasn’t Brooks’ only top-five finish though. On top of winning the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, she closed in the top five in four of the nine tournaments she played in. In the same nine events, only one of her teammates had more than one top-five score (Marta Perez had 2).
Brooks led UF in several statistical categories, including stroke average (72.04) and subpar strokes per round (3.65).
She tied for the most top-10 finishes on the team despite playing in four fewer tournaments than her teammates.
Whether Brooks utilizes all four years of eligibility or turns pro early remains to be seen, but she has previously stated that she has no intention of leaving school early.
The Florida women’s golf team has a bright future with her at the helm.
Dylan: Big, strong, fast and agile: all the attributes you want in an athlete. They're also all attributes that Florida guard Jalen Hudson possesses.
At 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, Hudson is big and powerful for his position. During the 2017-2018 campaign, he used his strength to drive to the basket, as well as his ability to shoot from all over the floor. The shooting guard led his team in scoring (15.5 points per game) and hit a team-high 78 three-pointers in the 34 games he played.
But athleticism isn’t shown just through a stat sheet. Hudson used his athleticism to put himself in position to make plays that few other players could. A prime example is when Hudson skied for a put-back dunk against St. Bonaventure in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
His incredible speed with the ball, combined with his remarkable agility to shake defenders on the wing made him the best athlete on the court at times and was a big reason why Hudson became the first Gator to win SEC Player of the Week three times in a basketball season.
That’s why he is my pick for the Athlete of the Year at UF. When you picture an athlete, you picture Florida’s No. 3 from Richmond, Virginia.
The Gators’ basketball team will bask in another year with Hudson, who has chosen to return for his senior season and make one last championship run with coach Mike White and his team.
Alanis: I don’t know how many UF athletes broke a school record or a collegiate record this past year, but I know one who did both: Grant Holloway.
Holloway ran the fastest 60-meter hurdles time (7.42) in the NCAA during the indoor season, which set a new UF school record. He did that at age 20, making him the second man to ever run 7.42 or faster before turning 21.
The sophomore is the first man in the history of the NCAA Indoor Championships with top-two finishes in the 60-meter hurdles (champion) and the long jump (runner-up).
He is also the only man in indoor track and field history to run a sub-7.50-second and surpass 8.00 meters jumping in the same season. And he did that in a 24-hour span at NCAA Indoors.
During the outdoor season, Holloway ran the second-fastest (13.15) and tied the third-fastest (13.16) 110-meter hurdles time in collegiate history.
He won SEC Outdoor titles in the 110-meter hurdles and long jump and defended his 110 hurdles national title at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The Chesapeake, Virginia, native is the only man in the last four seasons with multiple indoor and outdoor USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week Honors in the same year.
His dominance helped the Gators to an NCAA Indoor title, SEC Outdoor title, and NCAA Outdoor runner up.
Holloway seems to get better with every race and could become one of the most accomplished athletes to come through Florida.
Andrew: Allow me to introduce you to the 2017-18 UF Athlete of the Year: Rhamat Alhassan. She’s 6-foot-4, from Glenarden, Maryland, and was a four-year cornerstone of the UF volleyball team. She was efficient and productive offensively and an absolute monster on the defensive end. She was a 2017 First-Team All-American and the 2017 SEC Player of the Year. She also won the 2017 Honda Sport Award – the rough equivalent of college football’s Heisman Trophy – for volleyball.
Alhassan anchored one of the best defenses in school history as a senior, leading the country with 1.70 blocks per set. If you’re more familiar with basketball stats than volleyball stats, this accomplishment is comparable to the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert leading the NBA in blocks per game last season.
Thanks in large part to Alhassan, the Gators dominated opposing offenses all year, ranking in the NCAA’s top 10 in team blocks per set and opponents hitting percentage (imagine how opponents struggle to move the ball against, say, the Alabama football team if you need context for this terminology).
Alhassan was an absolute force at the net and was instrumental in the Gators’ 30-2, national runner-up season that included the program's 23rd SEC title. A member of the 2017 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll, she also handled business off the court. The choice is clear.
Who do you think is UF's Athlete of the Year?
You can vote on Twitter by following
@alligatorSports or go to twitter.com/alligatorSports.
UF left fielder Amanda Lorenz reached base safely in all 67 games for the 2018 season. She also received the SEC Player of the Year honor.