A speaker stood at the half-court logo inside the Georgia women’s basketball practice gym. She spoke about vitamins and supplements as all of the Lady Bulldogs huddled around her.
Somehow or someway, it turned into a pre-practice dance party.
Georgia head coach Joni Taylor got in on the fun with some laughs and soaked in a joyous moment as the Lady Bulldogs kicked off preseason practices — a series of three-hour periods that will ultimately result in some tired bodies. Once the jokes paused however, a dose of reality went in the players’ direction.
“Thirty-nine days until we tip-off,” Taylor said. “It’ll be here before you know it.”
Georgia opens its season on Nov. 7 vs. Kennesaw State, but the numerous hours inside the practice gym have just begun. Here’s where the Lady Bulldogs stand at the first practice.
Taylor found the perfect match to Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart’s season-long motto of “do more.” The Lady Bulldogs were set to travel to Italy for their overseas tour, and the basketball motto of “alzati” came to life.
It translates to “rise up” in English, not to be confused with the Atlanta Falcons’ tagline, and that’s exactly what Georgia feels like it needs. Each of the players are reminded of the bitter taste intertwined with the 2018-19 season — an SEC tournament loss to Arkansas and a rare miss at the NCAA tournament.
“We don’t want to have a repeat of last year,” junior guard Gabby Connally said.
While remembering last season, there’s a new start and a relieving breath because of it. Georgia’s record is new. Its roster is, too, with the departures of Caliya Robinson, Taja Cole and Donnetta Johnson and the additions of four newcomers.
Throughout last season, the Lady Bulldogs battled with preparation and focus. Those virtues are now preached by the coaching staff on a daily basis. The players are shown how to prepare for competition in an effort for Georgia to reach its desires and return to the national power that it once was.
“For us, it’s whatever expectation you thought you had, raise it to a different level,” Taylor said. “You come to Georgia to play at the highest level.”
Georgia enters its preseason with a flurry of injuries, however none of them are expected to be a factor by the season opener.
Junior guard Que Morrison underwent offseason surgery to repair a foot injury, and was seen at Friday’s practice in a walking boot. She didn’t participate in the overseas tour to Italy, and finishes this recovery after suffering a torn MCL prior to last season.
“It’s nothing major, but something we wanted to take care of this summer when we could.” Taylor said. “You’ll see her back (in practice) soon and definitely by the first game.”
Georgia awaits positive news and clearance for sophomore forward Malury Bates as she readies for a full season. She tore her ACL against Mercer last season and now participates in non-contact practice drills. Bates averaged five points and five rebounds as a redshirt freshman.
Junior forward Jenna Staiti appeared at practice with a walking boot and crutches. She suffered a tweak in a conditioning drill while running a series of sprints.
A team source said the statuses of NCAA eligibility waivers for Mikayla Coombs and Shaniya Jones are still processing. Coombs came to Georgia from UConn in the offseason and Jones was a mid-year transfer from Virginia Tech. If their waivers are denied, Coombs would be ineligible until the 2020-21 season and Jones could play in December 2019.
Freshman guard Chloe Chapman is not with the Lady Bulldogs, but is a full participant on Billy Lesesne’s Georgia soccer team as a dual-sport athlete. Chapman will return to basketball at the end of the soccer season — Oct. 31 vs. Florida. She’s currently tied as soccer team’s leading scorer with three goals through 10 games.