Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Women's Basketball Preparing for Start of 2011-12 Season; Meet Media at Annual Luncheon

Albany, N.Y. - The University at Albany women's basketball team was picked to finish eighth in the America East Conference one year ago, prior to the start of head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson's first season. Last March, the Great Danes stood in fifth place in the league standings and fell just short of upsetting eventual league champion Hartford in the conference quarterfinals. In the 2011-12 preseason poll, UAlbany made a four-spot jump, but don't expect the Great Danes to get too far ahead of themselves.

"I think last year when we were picked eighth, that was a source of motivation," said Abrahamson-Henderson, who opened up her first season as head coach of the Great Danes with five straight wins. "We live one day at a time. We don't think about March at all. We think about today and today's practice and that's it, because tomorrow is not promised and yesterday is gone, so we just worry about that day at task."

The Great Danes bring back four starters from last year's squad, including junior Ebone Henry, who was the first player to earn a major America East award in program history after being tabbed the league's defensive player of the year at the end of last season. Henry finished second in the conference with 2.6 steals per game, and was among the league leaders in scoring (third, 14.4 ppg) and rebounding (eighth, 7.3 ppg).

"We have really high expectations," said Henry, who was also an all-conference first team and all-defensive team honoree as a sophomore. "We only lost one main player from last year so we are expected to better from last year, which was pretty good. We are all focused and worked hard in the summer and did really well in the preseason. We are ready."

Also returning to the court is all-conference honoree Julie Forster, who joined Henry on the all-defensive squad after leading the league in rebounds for the second straight season, and Cassandra Callaway, who will be serving as a team captain along with Forster and Keyana Williams. Forster averaged 9.7 rebounds per game in 2010-11, and set UAlbany's single-season record for boards, pulling down 292. Callaway, a 5-7 guard, will run the floor from the point guard position this season, after averaging 10.0 points per game as a junior. Having seasoned veterans on the floor, combined with a year mentored by Abrahamson-Henderson, the Great Danes feel confident.

"It's great because we had a chance to be under [Coach Abe]," stated Callaway. "She builds confidence for us because she knows exactly what kind of players we can be. The confidence level comes from within and all of us are able to build each other up on the court."

Abrahamson-Henderson brought in three new players to the fold, and expects all of them to have an immediate impact, despite the strength coming back. Guards Sarah Royals and Allysia Rohlehr, along with center Megan Craig, bring depth and talent to a Great Danes' squad that is taking every day seriously.

"We are excited, very healthy, look like a team, look together," said Abrahamson-Henderson, whose team will kick off the 2011-12 season on Friday night at the Purple & Gold Scrimmage at SEFCU Arena. "Our slogan for this year is 'One team, one heartbeat.' We look completely different from last season at this time. They are very strong physically and that makes them very strong mentally."

The Great Danes enter the regular season on Friday, Nov. 11, visiting Fordham, before returning to Albany for the home opener against LaSalle on Sunday, Nov. 13.

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