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Senior point guard Jaterra Bonds is a fan favorite at the O'Dome and team leader on the court.

Saturday January 18, 2014Many Names, One Point: Bonds Leads Way for Gators

Senior point guard Jaterra Bonds is a fan favorite at the O'Dome and team leader on the court.

Jaterra Bonds

Senior point guard Jaterra Bonds looks to lead Gators past Georgia on Sunday at the O'Connell Center.

By Michelle Provenzano Writing Intern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- She's known by her teammates as JT. Other friends and acquaintances know her as JT-Money.

But Gators senior point guard Jaterra Bonds has taken on a new title she has grown fond of: “The Mayor."

“Every time we would go somewhere, people would know who JT was,” redshirt junior guard Kayla Lewis said. “I was on the phone with my sister one time, and she said, ‘JT just knows everyone; she’s like the mayor.'

“We all thought it was funny, but JT just kind of embraced it. Everyone else picked it up, and it just stuck.”

Bonds became acquainted with the community long before she put on a Gators jersey, having grown up in Gainesville, just outside the college centric part of town.

“Gainesville is a pretty small city,” Bonds said. “You really have to make your own fun.”

Growing up, Bonds’ way of making her own fun was going skating with friends, going bowling and of course, playing basketball.

Sports were a part of her life since day one.

Her father, Claude Bonds, coached a boys’ basketball team in a recreational league at the Martin Luther King Center, and she tagged along to watch the team whenever they played.

One day, Bonds gave up her role as spectator.

“One of the players didn’t show up, so he put me in,” Bonds said. “And now look at me.”

She enjoyed the competitive nature of the sport and stuck with it, playing with and against the guys.

“No one expects the girl to play with the guys, but that’s what happened with me,” Bonds said.

After years of learning the game through the boys’ perspective, Bonds entered high school and joined the girls' team at P.K. Yonge High. She turned heads as soon as she set foot on the court for the Blue Wave.

Bonds averaged 20.3 points per game in the 2008-09 season and helped lead the Blue Wave to a 28-1 record and a Class 3A state runner-up finish.

With a high competitive nature that remained consistent throughout her high school career, she attracted the eye of Gators head coach Amanda Butler.

“I had seen her play a lot, but there was this one game in particular where she was just so aggressive, but still so smart — still competitive, yet still composed,” Butler said. "She was just the perfect mix of the fire that I needed. Her competitiveness and her confidence were things I knew really made her special.”

Bonds said she knew she would play college ball because she had the drive to make it happen.

“You have to have a certain confidence about yourself,” she said. “I always had that confidence.”

Since her O’Connell Center debut in 2010, Bonds’ college career has been nothing short of impressive.

Now in her final season with the Gators, Bonds has assumed a greater leadership role.

She leads the team with 284 points, 71 assists and 597 minutes in the 17 games she has started this season, and has been named SEC Player of the Week twice.

With 1,372 career points and counting, Bonds is inching toward the top of the all-time 1,000-point scorers list. Starting the season at No. 21 on the list with 1,088 points, in just 17 games Bonds has jumped to No. 15, surpassing recent Gator grad Jennifer George and WNBA star Tamara Stocks in the process.

“I think she’s an inspiration,” Butler said. “There are a ton of little girls that grow up in Gainesville just like her and dream of playing for the Gators.”

“She not only achieved that, but she is living it out in the biggest way possible by having a career that’s built and built each year, and is now culminating in a really fantastic senior season.”

And just like many college athletes, the dream of playing professionally still lingers.

“(Bonds) is somebody who wants what they want, and is going to work hard to get it,” Lewis said. “If she gets the opportunity to showcase what she has, then I think she’ll get wherever she needs to go.”

“It’s about being in the right place at the right time, but when you’re a good person and do the right thing, you’ll be blessed.”

If Bonds had it her way, she’d be playing basketball for years to come.

“If the Lord’s willing, I’ll be in the WNBA, and you’ll still continue to see me on TV,” she said laughing.

But for now, the senior is solely focused on enjoying the time she has left in Gator Nation.

“I’m just trying to soak up everything that I can because you only get to go to college for four years and after this it’s over,” she said.

A home matchup against Georgia on Sunday reminds Bonds of what she appreciates most in her time here as the Gators get deeper into the heart of their SEC schedule.

“It’s the support and love that I knew I was going to get if I stayed here,” Bonds said. "I knew people in middle school and high school that were like, ‘I’m going to remember you now. I’m going to come to your games; you’re going to be good, and you’re going to go somewhere.’

“I remember those things. To see those people come up and just show appreciation and love is gratifying.”

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