UGA Basketball

Lady Bulldogs senior forward hopes to follow rising ESPN star's path

Mackenzie Engram and Maria Taylor hang out together inside Stegeman Coliseum.
Mackenzie Engram and Maria Taylor hang out together inside Stegeman Coliseum.

Mackenzie Engram was first placed in front of a camera on a recruiting visit to Georgia.

After touring the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, she was in a newsroom and playing a rapid-fire game with her then-head coach Andy Landers.

In that moment, the soon-to-be Lady Bulldogs’ valuable contributor began envisioning broadcasting as a part of her future, and that sealed it.

“I knew that this was what I wanted to do,” Engram said.

Once Engram made her way to campus and was admitted into Grady College as a journalism major, she found a successful female broadcaster to look up to. SEC Nation chose to host its show at Georgia ahead of a college football Saturday and Engram was a part of a shooting contest the day prior with Maria Taylor, the host of the show during the 2016 season.

Engram met Taylor briefly a year prior as the two were introduced by third-year Georgia head coach Joni Taylor. As a 2009 Georgia graduate and two-sport athlete in volleyball and basketball, Maria Taylor offered for Engram to shadow her throughout the Saturday morning show after the two shared some laughs while shooting hoops.

From that moment, the two have built an everlasting relationship.

“Mackenzie is so special and someone I’ve built a bond with,” Taylor said. “I am invested in her both on-and-off the court. Whatever her future looks like, I’m supportive of it.”

Engram is getting broadcast experience by updating the Lady Bulldog fan base on the team’s recent happenings in her “SEC Weekly Recap.” It started this season and the seventh episode was recently completed ahead of the NCAA Tournament, which begins Saturday against Mercer.

Engram notices herself sticking to the script at times, rather than allowing the message to flow naturally while realizing she’s a part of the team she speaks of. Taylor has spoken to her on that, and she also has urged Engram to make the most of her platform by finding ways to get experience.

“She texts me all the time and I give her feedback,” Taylor said. “I’m just like a coach when it comes to broadcasting, now. I’ll be constructive and give criticism, and she’ll say, ‘Yes, I’ll work on that.’ The next time she does it, she’s better. It’s fun having someone that’s coachable and who’s willing to put in the hard work.”

Engram’s passion has spread to other college basketball teams. Taylor notices other players approaching her at an increasing volume and saying, “I want to go do what Mackenzie Engram is doing.”

Taylor continues her efforts to empower student-athletes with a non-profit organization called Winning Edge Leadership Academy.

This summer, Taylor and other mentors in sports business will hold a retreat in Miami, Florida to focus on mentoring and networking. Former Georgia receiver Kenneth Towns is a cohort in the event.

"I'm trying to be like (Nick) Saban and (Bill) Belichick and have a reporting tree," Taylor said. "I'm planting seeds and we'll see how far it'll go.

Added Landers, who was alongside for the interview in Nashville ahead of the SEC Tournament: "She's going to build a forest."

Engram closely watches Taylor, who has gone from SEC Network sideline reporter to host of the highly-acclaimed pregame show “College Gameday” within the span of a year. She continues her sideline duties with the ABC primetime football game and also hosts a number of college basketball shows.

“She brings a lot of confidence,” Engram said. “She's very strong in what she does, and you're looked a little down upon in the sports reporting world because you're a girl. She brings so much to that and she offers so much to those following her."

Engram may not be looking to pursue a professional career in the WNBA or overseas as some of her former teammates have as she’s become dead set on a future in sports media.

Those who have watched her gain experience see more success to come.

“She is a natural on camera, poised and smart and full of insight,” said Grady College dean Charles Davis, who has watched each of Engram’s recaps. “If you throw in the fact that she’s a natural leader and personable and gifted at interpersonal interactions, and I’d be willing to bet we’ll be seeing her on air.”