SEC Women’s Basketball Q&A: Amanda Butler > SEC > NEWS
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    SEC Women’s Basketball Q&A: Amanda Butler

    By: Sean Cartell
    SEC Digital Network

    NASHVILLE – The Florida women’s basketball team (18-11, 8-8 Southeastern Conference) opens SEC Tournament play on Thursday when it takes on Auburn (13-16, 5-11 SEC) at 1 p.m. ET. The winner will advance to play top-seeded Kentucky at 1 p.m. ET on Friday in the tournament’s second round.
     
    Florida head coach Amanda Butler sat down with the SEC Digital Network on Wednesday to preview the upcoming tournament.

    SEC Digital Network: You’ve participated in the SEC Tournament as both a player and a coach. From your perspective, what makes this tournament so special?

    Amanda Butler: “I think this year, on top of the fact that I think we have the best players and the best coaching and just really some of the best institutions that are out there, the fact that you can truly pull a name out of a hat and any of those names is capable of winning the tournament this year. I think that makes it fun. The SEC does a great job of choosing cities and venues for us to compete in. This one right here is one of the best, if not the best. Nashville is a great city to host an event like this. The level of play, the level of coaching, the level of intensity and competitiveness that these rivalries bring about, it’s second to none anywhere in the country.”

    SEC Digital Network: Jennifer George earned All-SEC honors today. What has she meant to your team this year?

    Amanda Butler: “She has been huge. We really consider ourselves a great team, but from an individual standpoint, I don’t think we can legitimately say that we’re one of those teams that has been a contender and feels like that we’re a tournament contender without Jennifer and her consistency. That’s what’s been the most amazing about the way she’s played this year. It’s not that she’s played well, we’ve seen her do that. But she’s done it so many games in a row that the string of double-doubles that the surprise of you being a great player or having a great year is over and now all the defensive attention is on you and you’re still producing, I think it is a great testament to her, her toughness and her ability to adjust. Her position coaches Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and Murriel Page have done a great job of not just helping Jennifer develop, but also pushing her limits as far as her mental toughness and really making sure that they’re shaping her expectations week-to-week and game-to-game.”

    SEC Digital Network: What are your thoughts on facing Auburn and how much do you think the announcement of Nell Fortner’s retirement will play a factor in the game?

    Amanda Butler: “Nell is a great coach, a great recruiter and a great person. When you have that combination of characteristics in a person, then you’re going to have a group of individuals play very hard for their head coach, regardless. Then, when you have a very emotionally charged announcement like she is going to step away, I think you’re going to see those kids respond as they have. They have won their last two ballgames and in the Alabama game, winning by 40 points, that is great basketball. You have to know that there’s a little bit of emotion and a sense of urgency that is injected in there that might not be otherwise. There’s no doubt that we’ve got to make this game, especially the start of this game, about great defense and Florida basketball, not how fired up and motivated Auburn is to play for Nell.”

    SEC Digital Network: Is there added importance placed on this year’s tournament because you have a good opportunity to make an NCAA Tournament appearance?

    Amanda Butler: “We’ve got more basketball to play. I don’t have to campaign for us to get in the tournament; I think we’ve built a strong resume and the best place about where we’re sitting right now is that we’ve got a game tomorrow. The best thing we can do is go out and play Auburn and win. That’s totally where our focus is right now. Everybody wants to talk about the NCAA Tournament, but we’re in the SEC Tournament, which I think is the best conference tournament in the country, and this is totally and completely where all of our focus is.”

    SEC Digital Network: There has been so much parity in the SEC this season. Do you think there is a clear-cut favorite heading into this week’s tournament?

    Amanda Butler: “I don’t. I think it’s probably the only tournament that I’ve coached in where there really wasn’t one. I think there have been years where we’ve felt like these three or four schools have a chance at it but, this year, everyone has beaten everyone. You’ve had parity like an Alabama beating a Kentucky, you’ve had a team like us that’s played everyone close, you’ve had performances like a Tennessee looking dominant and blowing out Kentucky and then you’ve had Kentucky blow out other people. I truly believe that. I think it’s going to be one of the funnest tournaments to watch for a fan that I’ve been a part of.”