Nov. 9, 2016 at The Venue

Availability: HC Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, G Aliyah Gregory, G Zykira Lewis

HC Katie Abrahamson-Henderson

This is Abrahamson-Henderson’s first year as the University of Central Florida’s women’s basketball head coach.

Well the mission is here. The mission inside is our theme, so the mission is here. It’s right on top of us. We just had two scrimmages, which was awesome, but I think we’re getting to the point where we really want to play real games. So we’re really excited.

It’s a new beginning, and so it’s just one step at a time. I’m, personally, just trying to enjoy the journey. I just hope our players are, and I know my staff is awesome because I’ve been with them for six years, so it’s like a new beginning for us to retrain a new team and see if we can bring our philosophy here to them. You know, they’ve been very accepting of it, and they’ve bought in. Now I’m excited for them so they can accomplish some of their goals.

When asked about the preparation heading into the Knights’ first two games against Florida International University and the University of South Alabama, Abrahamson-Henderson said preparation has been happening since July.

Well, we’ve been preparing since July, in terms of fitness and getting really fit, getting in the weight room, setting program standards, and it’s been a build-up. So it’s been a constant every day, intensity, work hard, great teammates, energy, everything—it’s just been building up, building up, building up, and so now we’re to the point where we can kinda go out and show what we’ve done for the last four months.

For Abrahamson-Henderson, the season-opener against FIU has bigger implications than just one game.

Well, I think the first game is because it’s a Florida school, and so that’s a problem because all the Florida schools wanna win. It’s an in-state rivalry, so I think that’s the biggest thing that I have to get across to my team.

When asked about expectations for her team, Abrahamson-Henderson talked about effort.

We gotta play harder than the other team—that’s the expectation.

For the first-year UCF head coach, there are no nerves heading into the team’s season-opener.

No, I don’t think [there are nerves] yet. I never get nervous because I’m always in attack mode, and so I want to feel the same way. I don’t think they will be nervous because I won’t be nervous. Because we’re ready to play somebody else, and now we just gotta go out there and play the other team.

Abrahamson-Henderson noted that Aliyah Gregory and Fifi Ndour have been two players on her team that don’t get enough credit.

Well, I probably think two people that everybody doesn’t really recognize as much is Aliyah Gregory and Fifi. I mean, those two are gonna just bring so much to us, and if we can get [Zykira Lewis] to continue to play like Zy, then now we get three powerhouses. But it’s gonna be really hard to guard us because I think everybody can contribute, everybody can do things offensively for us, and we’ve really put a really good system where they can score and do the things that they’re great at and not make them do things they’re not great at. And so once I think our team really feels even more comfortable in our offensive sets, you’re gonna see just a fun, fun game.

G Aliyah Gregory

Gregory is a junior. Last season she tallied 10.1 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting.

It’s going great. I like seeing the new mentality in all the players. Just seeing transfer from last year to this year has been great. The mentality and things like that—the way we go about things. So I’m excited for games just finally starting to get rolling around and play somebody else.

For Gregory, preparation under the new coaching staff has been different.

It’s been different. It’s a different way of preparing for games than we did last year. Just a different way going about things. So, it’s been different, but everybody’s bought in, willing to focus. Coaches are telling us everything that we need to do to be successful, so I just look forward to playing.

In the Knights’ all-time record against FIU, they are 10-29.

I think it’s gonna be fun to be able to play like an in-state rival because, of course, we want to dominate Florida. So being able to play somebody in Florida, being able to knock off any team in Florida we can is gonna be a great opportunity.

When asked about the expectations for the first two games, Gregory said the new coaches set the bar high.

The expectations are just high. I think as a program, the expectations start from our coaches, and they have set the expectation that no matter who we’re playing, no matter what we’re doing, we’re going hard at everything. I think if we go hard and compete in these first two games, the outcome will be good.

For the junior, there are no nerves going into another season.

No, I’m not nervous. I think our coaches have prepared us very well from starting in the summer until now. So, everybody is very confident in what they can do and what we can do as a team. So, no nerves for us.

Gregory said she’s excited to play another team and not her own teammates.

I’m excited, of course. We’ve been practicing for like a month and a half now, so playing against each other every day kinda gets boring, so it’s going to be exciting to actually go to war with each other and be able to compete against somebody else.

After practice on Wednesday, Abrahamson-Henderson said that Gregory and Ndour were two players who didn’t get enough credit.

It’s a great feeling. When your coaches believe in you, that’s always a good feeling. But I think that just attributes to the work that we’ve put in as a team. Like we’ve all put in a great work over the summer, and now the coaches are starting to see what we can and can’t do, and they have confidence in us, so that’s great.

G Zykira Lewis

The Knights start the season with a new coaching staff under Abrahamson-Henderson and staff members she’s had for at least six years.

It’s been a very good journey for us. We working hard and buying into whatever [head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson] has told us to do… Very excited. New beginnings, new coaches. We’re just ready to go out there and compete.

When asked about preparation, Lewis said the focus has been on defense.

A lot of defense. We want to work really hard on defense because we have a goal that we want to set for ourselves, so make sure we just buy in on defense, and the offense will come.

Lewis reiterated her coach’s sentiments about Friday’s season-opener being more than just a game; for her, it’s also an in-state battle.

In-state rival, so it’d be good for us. We get bragging rights if we win.

The expectations for Lewis and the Knights are to play hard and play good defense.

Just compete and play hard. Play defense. That’s what we really want to work on and just competing.

Like Gregory and Abrhamson-Henderson, Lewis isn’t nervous for the start of the season.

No nervousness. Just gotta play how we know we can play and just put it all together—what the coaches tell us.

 

Abrahamson-Henderson said Gregory and Ndour have been two players that don’t get enough credit.

They play very hard. They compete every day. They buy in on defense, and whatever the coaches ask them, they do it. We have to just follow along with what they’re doing, and they’ll be a great team.

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