The Florida women’s basketball team held its preseason media day Thursday, and coach Cam Newbauer and the players got to share their thoughts on the offseason and the season to come. They spoke a lot on improvement from last season and had a new-found confidence. Here are three areas the team addressed for the upcoming season:
The end of the 2018-19 season meant the departure of leading scorers Funda Nakkasoglu and Delicia Washington. Newbauer was tasked to find players to make up for the 27.1 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game and 54 total steals that left with the dynamic guard duo.
While the team has a lot of new faces, Newbauer expects to turn to veterans to jumpstart the team early in the season, and guards Kiara Smith and Danielle Rainey fit the bill.
The two players flourished last season, especially Rainey, who became a microwave off the bench with 8.2 points per game and 28 three-pointers. Her most noticeable area of improvement will need to be her accuracy, as she made just 25 percent of her threes and 31 percent from the field.
Smith, who started all but one game as the team’s point guard, also said she was excited for the opportunity to open up her scoring game.
“I’m just trying to be overall better,” she said. “Definitely want to have a more aggressive mindset on offense, but I still want to be that pass-first point guard.”
Last season, the Gators walked onto the court for their opening game with just two returning players from the year before. In 2019, the team has a lot of veterans but still not many upperclassmen.
Eight of the 12 players on the roster are underclassmen heading into the season, four of them freshmen.
Newbauer said he was eager to see his new recruiting class that included guards Lavender Briggs — who averaged 32.2 points (a state record) and 12.5 rebounds per game in her senior year at Provo High School in Utah — and Tampa native Brylee Bartram, who broke the national high school record for both boys and girls for three-pointers made in a career with 533 at Seffner Christian Academy.
“My game definitely fits (Newbauer’s) coaching style,” Bartram said. “He definitely believes in taking your shots. Taking threes has always been a big part of his coaching career, and I’m definitely excited to be a part of that.”
One glaring issue for Florida was prominent by the end of its eight-win season last year: its lack of size.
The team relied on 6-foot-2 forward Zada Williams and 6-foot-1 guard Kristina Moore to command the low post, a difficult task made harder when Moore broke her arm 20 games into the season.
But Newbauer and the staff have attempted to address that area during the offseason.
Newcomers in 6-foot-4 freshman Faith Dut and 6-foot-5 Texas A&M transfer Emer Nichols, as well as the returning Moore, should add more physicality to a team that desperately needed it.
“Our first three years haven’t felt this good,” Newbauer said. “Our first three years, we were so new. Now we have a lot of players that are talented and who’ve played significant time and minutes. I’m excited for what will come.”
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Guard Danielle Rainey averaged 8.2 points per game off the bench last season and made 28 three-pointers.