ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF women's basketball team added two new assistant coaches Thursday. Tahnee Balerio and Isoken Uzamere, who were instrumental in helping Albany build a dynasty in the America East over the last six years, will be joining head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson at UCF.
"I am very excited Tahnee Balerio and Isoken Uzamere have decided to join our UCF women's basketball family. They will be a huge asset to this program," Abrahamson-Henderson said.
Balerio will serve as UCF's recruiting coordinator, oversee scouting reports and will be responsible for the development of the guards. Uzamere will focus on the post players as well as compliance, and will have a hand in the team's strength and conditioning, nutrition and weight room regimen.
"Tahnee is one of the top point guard coaches in the country. She is great at skill development and teaching players the mental part of the game. She is an excellent motivator and relentless recruiter," Abrahamson-Henderson said.
"Isoken has also become one of the top post coaches in the country," she continued. "She is great at teaching the physicality and toughness it takes to be a dominant post player. Her energy is contagious and her ability to recruit great players is due to her ability to relate and connect with people."
Tahnee Balerio spent a total of six seasons at Albany - logging four years as an assistant coach after her two years as director of basketball operations. She was responsible for the development of guards, the day-to-day practice schedule and ordering/distribution of equipment. She also made opponent scouting reports and assisted with game preparation and recruiting.
She comes to UCF after helping the Great Danes capture four America East regular season titles and five conference tournament championships along with five-straight NCAA Tournament berths, which included Albany's first NCAA Tournament win in 2016 against 5-seed Florida.
"The potential for growth within this university, this conference and this women's basketball team is what attracted me to the Knight Family. I am ecstatic to get started and am beyond thankful for the chance to re-energize the community and university about UCF women's basketball," Balerio said. "I have known Coach Abe for 14 years in several stages of my life - first as a recruit in high school, playing for her in college, and now working alongside her for six years. The consistent theme throughout those years has been honesty, hard work and a drive to be successful. I'm excited to have the opportunity to continue instilling those values with her here."
Balerio worked directly with a number of talented guards at Albany from 2010-16, including Sarah Royals, who became the all-time leader in assists in program history, and Lindsay Lowrie, who finished her career with the second-highest three-point percentage in UAlbany history. Lowrie earned Third Team All-Conference as a senior and finished 13th in all of Division I in three-point shooting percentage at 41.3 percent.
In her last season with Albany in 2015-16, Balerio witnessed Imani Tate post the fourth-highest scoring season (604 points) in program history on the way to America East All-Conference First Team and All-Defensive Team honors. She ranked eighth in all of Division I with 3.12 steals per game. Zakiya Saunders, another all-conference selection, broke the school record for assists (227) and ranked sixth in Division I with her 6.9 assist per game average.
A graduate of Missouri State in 2008, Balerio was a team captain and a two-time MVP for the Bears. In addition to earning Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete honors, Balerio was a two-time all-conference honoree and led the MVC in scoring during the 2006-07 season under Abrahamson-Henderson, averaging 18.7 points per game. She helped lead the Bears to the MVC and WNIT Championships in 2005 and was invited to participate at the WNBA free agent draft camp in 2010.
After graduating from Missouri State, Balerio was the head junior varsity and assistant varsity coach at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo. She was in charge of coordinating the defense for the varsity program, as well as analyzing film, scouting and managing the statistics database. Balerio also worked specifically with the guards on position workouts, and ran all aspects of the junior varsity program.
Isoken Uzamere comes to UCF after four years with Albany women's basketball program where she served as an assistant coach for two seasons after her two years as the graduate assistant manager.
While she was affiliated with the Great Danes, the team won four conference championships and earned four NCAA Tournament berths, which included Albany's first NCAA Tournament win in 2016 against 5-seed Florida.
"I am so excited for the opportunity to be a part of a prestigious university and an athletic department on the rise. The opportunities for this women's basketball program are endless, and the culture and values that Coach Abe has already begun to administer will result in undeniable success. I am delighted that I will be able to assist in this progression while continuing to work for Coach Abe! It is an honor to be able to represent one of the nation's most innovative universities and I will not take it for granted. Go Knights; Charge On!"
Uzamere had many roles at Albany. She was a recruiter, worked directly with the post players, oversaw the team's managers and student assistants, served as the team's strength and conditioning, nutrition and weight room liaison, made opponent scouting reports and assisted with game preparation.
In 2016, her post players accumulated numerous accolades. She helped guide forward Shereesha Richards to recognition as a two-time Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American. Moreover, Richards picked up her third-straight America East Player of the Year award in 2016 and was also named to the America East All-Conference First Team and All-Defensive Team. Forward/Center Tiana-Jo Carter was the conference's selection for Sixth Player of the Year.
While Uzamere served as the team's graduate assistant manager in 2012-14, she earned her master's degree in interpersonal and intercultural communication. During those two years, she helped UAlbany capture a pair of America East titles and a combined 55-9 record.
Uzamere played forward for Hofstra and was a two-time Colonial Athletic Association All-Academic player in her junior and senior seasons. She served as the head coach of the Long Island Knights AAU Program in 2012 and was a counselor and coach at Game 7 Sports.
Story by Jenna Marina; Photos courtesy of University of Albany's Athletic Department