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Wednesday October 16, 2013 Cassie Peoples ready to resume career with Gators

Cassie Peoples

Gators guard Cassie Peoples is ready to reboot her career after transferring from Texas.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sophomore year of high school, Cassie Peoples broke her right tibia.

Six games into her freshman year of college, it was her left tibia. She had a metal rod inserted to help the bone heal.

After the season, Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors announced her resignation.

Around that time, Peoples began to think about her future.

“I just felt it was in my best interest to move forward and play somewhere else,’’ she said.

Peoples, who had visited UF when she lived in Daytona Beach and played at Father Lopez High as a freshman, opted to leave Texas – she finished high school in San Antonio and helped Cypress-Fairbanks High win a state championship along with Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike.

While sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Peoples hurt her shoulder. She underwent surgery in February to repair a torn labrum.

Did you get all that?

As Peoples recounted her recent past at UF’s basketball media days last week, a smile washed over her face at the thought of playing again.

Finally, Peoples is healthy and ready to show why she was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school.

“I’m really excited and anxious to play,’’ she said. “More than anything I’m just trying to be patient and wait for the time to come. It will be a special moment for me.”

It will be for Florida head coach Amanda Butler, too.

Butler remembers watching Peoples play in high school, a fireball of energy racing up and down the court, dropping shots and tricky passes.

“Sometimes you don’t get it right the first go around,’’ Butler said. “There are factors that life throws at you that make you reconsider your initial decision. We’re glad to have her. She is going to really help our team.”

A 5-foot-6 point guard, Peoples hasn’t played in a game since a six-minute stint against Tennessee on Dec. 4, 2011.

That drought is expected to end on Nov. 8 when the Gators host Bethune-Cookman in their season opener.

Since enrolling at UF in July 2012, Peoples has developed friendships with her new teammates, adjusted to her new school and everything else that comes with being a college student.

“I’m accustomed to everything but the actual game,’’ she said. “It’s not a fun process to go through because you have to sit out a season.”

Considering what she has been through the past two years, Peoples doesn’t expect that transition to be nearly as difficult as the ones she has already made.

Peoples was ranked one of the nation’s top prep point guards coming out of high school, her skills refined from years of practice with her father Marcus Peoples, who played at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor and professionally in Australia.

That quick stop-and-pop she is known for, those nifty no-look passes that cause fans to gasp, Marcus helped her develop those ever since she was a little girl.

“He is the reason I am the player I am today. He taught me everything skill-set wise that I needed to know,’’ said Peoples, a redshirt sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining.”

With the Gators transitioning to a more up-tempo style this season, Peoples and fellow guards Jaterra Bonds and Carlie Needles will have the ball in their hands a bunch.

That’s the way Peoples likes it.

“I’m a point guard first,’’ she said. “I like to shoot, I like to score, I like to drive. In my game, whatever the best shot for our team is pretty much what I’m looking for.”

Peoples played with Bonds on the Florida Essence UAA team prior to her family’s move to Texas.

“I don’t like to lose and she doesn’t either,’’ Peoples said. “I think we can make a great combo.”

 She also was a teammate on the Orlando Comets UAA team with former Gators forward Jennifer George.

Those passes Butler remembers seeing her make back then come naturally.

“It’s really something I don’t think you can teach,’’ she said. “God just gave me the ability to see things and make passes. I’ve been told that I’m a player that makes plays off instinct. I think that’s a great description of how I can find people and how I can find people.”

The clock is ticking. Peoples’ return to the court is almost here.

“I’m finally healthy and back in shape,’’ she said. “It’s a good feeling.”

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