‘Stegmania’ offers sneak preview of UGA basketball

ATHENS – In truth, both of Georgia’s basketball teams have been going at it a while. Between offseason practices and the official start of fall practices Monday, the Bulldogs have been put through the paces on the court for a solid five months now.

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But basketball season really gets under way at 7 p.m. Friday. That’s when UGA hosts its annual “Stegmania” celebration at Stegeman Coliseum. The event will serve as a sneak preview of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, which is especially anticipated this year because both programs are under the direction of new coaches.

Mike White, formerly of Florida, and Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, formerly of Central Florida, now are calling the shots. The coaches and players from both teams will be introduced at the beginning of a Stegemania program that will include some intrasquad scrimmaging and a slam-dunk contest and include cheerleaders and the Dance Dawgs, too.

Georgia’s men’s team lost 11 consecutive games to end last season. That resulted in a 6-26 overall record and the firing of previous coach Tom Crean in March. White was hired only days later after coaching the rival Florida Gators for seven seasons.

On Wednesday, White gave beat reporters an early sneak preview of his first Georgia squad. He conducted a pre-practice film session, then gave scribes an opportunity to watch an entire practice.

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“We’ve got a ways to go,” White said after the two-hour workout. “I’m sure the other 13 coaches in our league feel the same way. But I like our seriousness in terms of our approach and our consistency on a daily basis. My biggest issue is getting out of our comfort zone and fighting through fatigue. We’ve got to get tougher.”

That probably will have to come in time as the men’s team is still very much a work in progress. On Wednesday, sixth-year senior Jailyn Ingram participated in full-court practice for the first time since going down with an ACL injury early last season.

Meanwhile, Terry Roberts, Justin Hill and Jaden Newell were absent becasue of minor injuries or illness, and freshman KyeRon Lindsey was sidelined after a mid-practice collision. All are expected to be back soon.

Those players are part of a roster that includes nine newcomers, three freshmen, five returnees and three returning starters.

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Abrahamson-Henderson – or Coach Abe, as she prefers to be called -- will have a less intensive rebuilding job with the Lady Bulldogs. She replaced Joni Taylor, who abruptly left UGA to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

A UGA letterman under former Georgia coach Andy Landers, Abrahamson-Henderson’s first Georgia squad features five players who already were at 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 transfer De’Mauri Flournoy, and three highly touted freshman signees (Stefanie Ingram, Fatima Diakhate and Amiya Evans).

It also includes a highly recruited 6-foot-3 guard out of Orlando named Savannah Henderson. She happens to be the eldest daughter of the head coach.

After averaging 22 wins over 17 seasons, the latest at UCF, Coach Abe has made it clear her goal is to return Georgia to its previous championship-winning glory. After the four-week preseason, the Lady Bulldogs will open the season against Coastal Carolina on Nov. 7.

White’s men also get under way Nov. 7. The Bulldogs open against West Carolina following the women’s game, a fitting way to start a season of new beginnings for both squads.

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