The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

SEC Tipoff Blog: UGA's dawg mentality back with a bite

35 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky, SEC
Photo: Jimmie Mitchell/SEC

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson was the final coach to take the stage at SEC Tipoff 24, but much like her first Georgia team, she left a lasting impression.

Known affectionately and for brevity as Coach ABE, she delivered a memorable line that describes the "Dawg mentality" she embraced as a Georgia player and demands as the Georgia coach.

"You got blood pumping in your heart or Kool-Aid?" she said. "I want that blood pumping in their heart."

The Bulldogs had the blood pumping and the joint jumping in Abrahamson-Henderson's first season as head coach at her alma mater. Picked to finish ninth in the SEC, they finished fifth. They won 22 games, the most by the program in five years. Their NCAA Tournament victory over Florida State was their first in the event over a Power 5 team since 2013.

That kind of success is the norm for Coach ABE. In 18 seasons as a head coach at Missouri State, Albany, UCF and now Georgia, her teams have averaged 22 wins a year and earned 12 NCAA Tournament bids, which is third among current SEC coaches behind LSU's Kim Mulkey and South Carolina's Dawn Staley.

In perhaps the most impressive statistic of Abrahamson-Henderson's first season back at her alma mater, Georgia did not lose a single player to the transfer portal during this off-season. No other SEC program can say the same.

She attributed that rare stability to a number of reasons, from the longevity of her assistant coaches to their approach to developing their players as people.

"Some of it has to do with I'm a mother," she said. "I look at everybody as my family."

Javyn Nicholson fit right in. She led the Bulldogs in rebounding and doubled her points per game in Year One under Coach ABE, then "locked myself in the gym" during the off-season to take on an even greater role in her final college season.

Her coach expects Nicholson "to be our go-to player for sure." The fifth-year senior expects the Dawg mentality in Athens to finally earn the program the respect it deserves.

"I don't feel like Georgia, since I've been here, has ever gotten enough credit," Nicholson said. "But nobody in the SEC wants to play against us."