Katie Abrahamson-Henderson wants to get UGA netball back in the title race

The majestic limbs continued to sprout from there. Initially, she did not intend to become a coach – she went to college and thought about sports management or fitness – the decision to pursue graduation led her to Joanne Palombo-McCallie, first in Maine, later in Michigan State. She would also eventually work for Bill Fennelly at Iowa State.

Abrahamson-Henderson became her own teenager with her first head coach concert leading the women’s basketball program in Missouri State. From 2002-07, the Lady Bears went to three NCAA tournaments and won two conference titles and a WNIT championship.

A hugely successful race in Albany that included five NCAA tournaments in a row, Abrahamson-Henderson landed in Central Florida. There, she made one of the great twists and turns in women’s basketball and led the Knights to the first title of the American Sports Tournament and a school record for victories with a mark of 26-4 last season.

All of this led her back to Georgia. For the UGA Sports Board, Abrahamson-Henderson was a quick and obvious solution to Joni Taylor’s unexpected decision to move to Texas A&M after last season.

“Of course I loved it at UCF; I never wanted to go, “said Abrahamson-Henderson. “But I never thought Joni was leaving. Always. Then it opened and I was like, “Oh, my.” It was weird and it was fast. “

So there she was last week, in Taylor’s office, but only Landers before. One of Abrahamson-Henderson’s most valuable new assets is jersey no. 3 in Georgia, which was provided to her by the school on the day she was appointed head coach. “3” represents her as the third head coach in the history of the program.

“Isn’t that wild?” she said.

For now, the sweater is still folded on a bookshelf. Eventually it will be framed, but there has been no time to do so.

Abrahamson-Henderson has been on a relative leap since her March 26 introductory press conference. There has been a lot to do and there is still a lot to do.

It’s only with the basketball program. Doesn’t matter about the real challenges of two daughters finishing school in Orlando, selling houses and finding something else in Athens, settling in school and so on. In between was building staff (she has pretty much kept them the same from top to bottom), hiring, signing periods, managing the transfer portal both outbound and inbound, holding several shops and organizing and performing off-season drills.

2022-23 The Lady Bulldogs have been put together now and are working together in the training group. Ultimately, it’s about what needs to happen on the pitch.

“Of course I loved it at UCF; I never wanted to go. But I never thought Joni (Taylor) was going to leave. Always. Then it opened and I was like, “Oh, my.” It was weird and it was fast. “

Georgia coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson

“It even has to do with the portal,” Abrahamson-Henderson said of the rapid pace. “This is a big change and it makes all university coaches adapt. That’s why we’re all busy. There is football, basketball, all sports. Usually you are not so busy at this time of year. “

Between the players who chose to stay at UGA, those who came from UCF and those who have come from stages far and wide, it seems that the Lady Bulldogs will once again be a force to be reckoned with. Their coach seems to have assembled a team with a good mix of experience, skills and sportsmanship.

Where Abrahamson-Henderson wants to stand out is not only to bring Georgia into the postseason, but to compete for championships, both regular season and otherwise. That’s where the Lady Bulldogs were coming up under Taylor.

After a 26-7 campaign that ended in a loss in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Georgia had a series of quick departures in the “Big Dance”. The Lady Bulldogs ran in the SEC Series in 2021 but did not pass South Carolina in the championship. Then they bowed to Duke in the second round of the NCAA.

Georgia’s presence in the NCAA Tournament under Taylor’s management was good, but otherwise the Lady Bulldogs were just an indistinguishable face in the SEC team that fills every postseason.

Abrahamson-Henderson’s attitude to success is different. Doesn’t matter about all the runs her teams did while playing in Georgia and Iowa. It has been the battle and the championship won in second-class conferences where she has trained her competitive spirit.

“My perspective is different from that of many coaches,” she said. “When I was with Albany, we had to work hard to get in. There is pressure. … Same at UCF. We could get two teams in. This was about the conference title. In the SEC, you could be getting seven, eight, nine teams in. So my mindset is a little different.

“It will never be ‘OK, let’s just be number 8!'”

Her teams have reflected that feeling. In 17 seasons as head coach, Abrahamson-Henderson has collected 372-157 records (.703), averaging 22 wins per season, winning seven regular seasons, nine tournament crowns and winning 11 NCAA places (14 bids after the season total). ).

Can Georgia afford to maintain such a pace this year? Of course, Abrahamson-Henderson can not be sure. But she likes the team she has put together for a short time.

The Bulldogs’ 15-man roster is complete. There are five players already in Georgia (Zoesha Smith, Chloe Chapman, Jordan Isaacs, Malury Bates and Javyn Nicholson), three UCF transfers (Diamond Battles, Brittney Smith and Alisha Lewis), Texas transfer Audrey Warren, West Virginia transfer Kari Niblack , Vanderbilt performs De’Mauri Flournoy, and three very popular freshmen (Stefanie Ingram, Fatima Diakhate and Amiya Evans).

It also includes the highly coveted, top 50 options from Orlando. This 6 foot 3 guard is Savannah Henderson and she is the eldest daughter of Mike and Katie Henderson.

It’s new ground, even for the 55 – year – old Bulldogs coach.

“I was shocked that she wanted to come here,” Abrahamson-Henderson said of his daughter. “She is a smart kid and I immediately told her that we were going to hire her in exactly the same way as everyone else. (Assistant) coaches called her; we separated her from coming to the office as she always has. We visited her at home. I was at home in another room and she and Dad were in another room with our coaches and heard what they had to say. …

“She made a very good, wise decision. And God just blessed us with a tall, tall, athlete who can play at this stage. “

It’s another beautiful ring that has Savannah Henderson starting her college career in the same place her mother did. Now the task is to bring the program back to where it was before.

Long before she was Coach ABE, she starred in Georgia with Katrina McClain, Barbara Bootz, Lisa O’Connor and Teresa Edwards. The Bulldogs won the SEC championship in their freshman season and lost just seven games in two seasons. That’s the standard she sets for Georgia’s women’s basketball.

“We’re looking for toughness, you know,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “Difficult, competitive, hustle and bustle, diving on loose balls, these are the kids we are looking for. We’re just jigsawing. There has been a lot of assessment of the situation for a long time. Now we have to go play. “

Regarding this “ABE-in-all-caps” thing, it’s just something the coach said she had just rolled with. She inherited it from her father, Lee Abrahamson, who played basketball at Coe College with Bill Fitch, the coach of the NBA Championship. She has a basketball family, which includes a cousin who played in Iowa State and another who played with Drake.

“They were all basketball knots and everyone called them ‘ABE’, all hats. ABE, ABE, ABE, “she said and laughed. “It is strange and I do not know why.

It’s okay. The goal now is for “Coach ABE” to make a name for itself in Georgia.

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