Watch: UCF at NCAA Tournament - First Round Preview Presser


UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, Masseny Kaba and Diamond Battles participated in a preview press conference. Watch the full press conference above or below. Find the full transcript below.

Media Conference - Masseny Kaba and Diamond Battles 
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.
Q. Can you just talk about this program has grown so much over the time you've been here getting a better seed each and every year, so can you talk a little bit about the growth under Coach Abe and what it would mean to get a win in the NCAA tournament for the program?
DIAMOND BATTLES: Over the years Abe has definitely grew this program. She's rebuilt UCF, so each year we've gotten better, more wins, getting closer and closer to a championship and we got that this year. So a win in the NCAA will be huge this year. We're making history this year. So this will definitely be another goal checked off for us to make history by going to the second round. So with Abe playing under Abe and under our coaching staff just getting better each year, so we hope to do that this year.
MASSENY KABA: For me I would say being in the program for five years now she's always been a coach who builds her program wherever she's at and being that this is our fifth year that we won championships we have that mindset and that goal that we want to make it further pass the first round, so we just have to come in tomorrow locked in and follow her game plan and I'm pretty sure we'll see where results end up.

Q. Now that you've had some time to maybe scout Florida a little bit what stands out to you about the Gators?
DIAMOND BATTLES: They work hard, they're very good team, they play well, they're well coached, so we just have to like I said follow Coach Abe's game plan and trust in her like we've been trusting in her especially for me for the pass five years. So that's all it is for me.

Q. Maybe more so for you Mass but Diamond this pertains to you, the way the last year finished and you and Tjia Sanders and obviously Diamond, but you more specifically because you had that additional year and wanting to come back and now seeing the fruits of your labor, how gratifying has this season been for you personally and then from a larger scale for this team as a whole?
MASSENY KABA: For me personally it's been something great of the I wanted to come back to win a championship and that's something that our team did. Everyone was locked in, everyone was focused, everyone wanted the same goals and we accomplished that. It means a lot to me because last year I felt like it was unfinished business it was something that we could have had but it just didn't end up in our favor last year, but this year everything's working in our favor and I can't really speak on the tournament yet because we haven't played in the game but really excited ready to go out there, play together as a team and see what happens in the end.

Q. You guys just traveled over a thousand miles to play Florida. The other -- Miami's playing USF. So can you talk a little bit about does mean a little bit more that you're playing an in-state rival and do you think that the spotlight is shining a little bit more on women's basketball in the state this week with these games going on and what would it mean to beat Florida since I think you're 0-25 as a program against them.
MASSENY KABA: I'll let my girl talk. She's from Florida. (Laughing).
DIAMOND BATTLES: It does mean a lot. Florida teams, we feel like we don't get enough respect as a state of Florida, so seeing Florida teams compete against each other, it gets more spotlight on us, just arrive always, USF is our rival, they're playing Miami and then we play Florida, just it opens everybody's eyes so like with the spotlight being on us playing Florida we have to be locked in and most people would say it's the battle of Florida but it's just opening up women's college basketball to see how we play and how Florida plays and just a battle of two great teams in Florida.

Q. Diamond, I was wondering, what made you stay close to home, you said you're from Florida, what made you stay close to home and be a part of that whole Florida women's college basketball?
DIAMOND BATTLES: I really didn't want to go far I'm a family person and when Abe and her coaches got to UCF they were very big on family and I met Kay Kay and Mass and they're like sisters and I'm big on my sisterhood because I have all sisters, so just going to UCF and staying close to home I knew I would have a family supporting me throughout everything and that's what they have done. So being able to stay home and my family can come to every game so that's why I chose UCF.

Q. If you look behind you the words March Madness are on the wall, there's a lot of talk last year about the inequities between the men's and women's tournament. What does it mean for you guys first that to have that, if anything, and have you noticed any differences this year, has it been better or I know you just got here, so maybe you haven't seen it yet, but what are you looking for?
MASSENY KABA: We just got here, so I don't really know, I haven't really seen anything, I haven't -- but from last year to this year I would say like the name changed for the thing is called March Madness for women's and men's now so it's not just entitled to the men, but other than that can't really speak on that because I haven't really seen anything, so I really don't have a comment.

Q. Diamond, under Coach Abe she's been such a huge role model and advocate for women empowerment and a lot of times you can say that a team can play to the personality of their coach. What is it about Coach Abe that makes it so easy to want to play for her and her staff?
DIAMOND BATTLES: Her personality for same. Abe has taught us to have a switch. So off the court you have as much fun as we want, but when we on the floor we know how to lock in. Playing for Abe she makes you want to fight, she makes you want to get after every loose ball, she makes you want it more than anybody else wants it. And we love playing over, playing for Coach Abe like me and Mass say, we'll go to work for Abe, no matter what, no matter, who we'll fight for Abe, that's how she coaches and that's how she makes us want to play.

Q. If you played against UCF would you say they're annoying to play against? I mean just being at you for 40 minutes. Just if you were to be in the shoes of an opponent.
MASSENY KABA: Yes, I would be like, all right, these people are getting on my nerves, they're working my nerves. But, no, even when we play against each other in practice we push each other so hard and I think that's what's big because there's not a lot of people who are going to push you and we push each other every day, we get mad at each other so I can't even imagine if I played against us, like I don't know how I would do it.
DIAMOND BATTLES: I would be like, yo, something got to give.
MASSENY KABA: Yeah, I would say we're very annoying to play against.

Q. I was wondering about being assigned to this venue, having played UCONN for years in the AAC, do you think it gives you any kind of an advantage to be in a place you're kind of familiar with, were you hoping to go someplace else, what do you feel about coming back up here?
MASSENY KABA: I'm glad we came here. I'm close to home so my family's showing out. My family's coming, I'm only two hours away from Boston, so I'll have, we'll have fans here, we'll have people supporting us, so I'm glad that we came here. I'm going to get some good people cheering us on, especially not knowing if this could be my last game or not and I get to play in front of my family, so I was happy when I heard that we was coming here.
DIAMOND BATTLES: I really, it really didn't matter I just wanted to get a good seed and every player wants the same thing, we can't change because a place or where we're playing so we got to be locked in and have the same focus and same game plan no matter where we play at.

Media Conference - Head Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson

THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you. We'll have an opening statement and then open it up to questions.
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: I'm such a terrible opening remarks person. Just after listening to you all talk to Diamond and Mass, I think we're just super excited and blessed to be in the NCAA tournament and have that opportunity.

This team's worked really hard and I'm so glad our super seniors, I call them super seniors, came back because now they have a really good opportunity to complete some of their other goals. And obviously Diamond is a key to that success too.

So I'm just super excited that we've started in July last year and just started working to get to this point. So we just feel very blessed to be here.

Q. Can you talk about the steps that your program has taken over the last several years, a better seed every year, and the next step would be a win in the NCAA tournament and beating Florida wouldn't be bad for the program which has never done it. Can you talk about how important those next steps are?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Yeah, when we, and I think you guys do great job of media in talking about our players, but and myself, but a lot of this build is my assistant coaches. They have been with me for a long time and I think that build and that stability of my assistant coaches, they have been with me this whole time that I've been at UCF and a lot of them played for me. And so they know how to rebuild a program and when we came in, we flipped the program around immediately.

It's not just me. We got blessed to have some really good players that were in our program before we got here and we just kind of implemented our system and then we were all over Masseny Kaba when we got here. We were trying to get her to come here and we were recruiting her at Albany and when she found out that we're coming down here, she said, absolutely, the sunshine and everything. So we were blessed to get her.
And then we recruited Diamond and Tay. The recruiting part started with our program and the second year, the third year, the fourth year. So it was every year we were building on what we really wanted to do and I feel like we've been a great team the whole time. It's just the school that we are here at we could just never get past that in terms of winning a conference regular season championship.

So the build has been I think one of those, you know, Kay Kay's, I don't know what year it was, Kay Kay's year we ended up in one of those years in second place and we might have been able to win a conference regular season championship in that year. We were really good that year. I don't know what year it was. Anybody know what year it was? Yeah, 2018-2019 we were really good.

And then Kay Kay's year we didn't get to go to the NCAA tournament because of COVID. So I feel like the build has been there all along and we just have been building up and building up and now that, we've been blessed to have these super seniors back. And I'm so thankful Masseny and Tay decided to come back. They didn't have to.

And then we got Shania Meertens that came from Clemson. She's got a lot of experience behind her belt. It's her super senior year too. So we got some really good super seniors that really want to do a lot of things and accomplish a lot of things.

So the build has been coming, but now that we've got a lot of strength and a lot of people ask about our defense. I mean, Masseny knows the defense like better than me. She's been doing it for five years so that's really been super helpful. So the build has been coming. We're excited to be here. We just feel really strong as a team right now.

Q. How much have you heard from Masseny this week about the fact that she's going to have a lot of friends and family, it sounds like.
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: I haven't really heard from her but I just know that she's excited to be back up here. I am too because I have Albany fans that, I mean, like everybody wants to get on the pass list from Albany.

But I know that her making that move all the way down to Florida, that was a big move for her leaving her family because she's a big family person also. So that just gives Coach Abe like excitement because she's playing in front of her family now. She's dangerous already, but now her family's here, so she's going to play. I don't even have, not that I have to coach Masseny or Diamond or any of our upperclassmen, but Mass's family's here? Yay, that makes me happy. (Laughing).

Q. You mentioned your staff, the fact that they haven't left. What do you think that says about them? I'm sure they have gotten opportunities over the years.
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Yeah. It just says that we're doing the right thing. And I'm kind of a different coach. I let my coaches do a lot and I want them to do a lot. It's not let because I just don't have an ego like that. I just, like I don't feel like I need to be in control of everything. I know what they're really good at.

They are really good at, I'm not going to give you my secrets, but they're all really good at some things and I know what my weaknesses are and so I let them, whatever my weaknesses are, I just let them do whatever they do.

And now it's just like I know if I have to go recruiting or if I'm not in the gym, I know that practice is going to be the same, recruiting is going to be the same. It's just a really good consistency.

But more than that it just really helps our players. It really helps our players because they know that we're all in this. It's not just Coach Abe's here for life. It's the assistant coaches got their backs too. That consistency, I think, and a lot of programs that I've been coaching, they lose assistant coaches and then somebody new comes in and it kind of changes the dynamics of the team. So I've been blessed to have everybody to stay.

Q. This will be your third NCAA tournament in a row with UCF. It would have been fourth. You mentioned fact that COVID obviously took that away. It was important to you at the tail end of the regular season where you had former players there on site to cut the nets down with them. Trying to build this program and having those ladies as building blocks, let's, ladies like this and they see that. The intent behind that, what is your overall mentality when it comes to former players and now going forward and these two will be former players at some point but not yet.
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Yeah. Probably Mass, that would have been a great question for Mass. Coming in her first year, it's just, to build a program, I feel like those, that those first two years are the hardest years, like, what you have to change about the program coming in. It's like have you this new coach. Everybody thinks she's crazy and she's trying to build something and she's, oh my gosh, you good to work hard? Well, of course, if you want to be a winning team you got to work hard.

So when those young women come back, and they're living in a lot of different places, so they travel and come see us, and when they come back I just want them to always remember. And I text them when we were doing things, and they text me and they say, congratulations, or they call me. Kay Kay called me from, where is she? Whatever country she's in right now because she's been -- so she's in France. She called me the other day and said congratulations. I'm like congratulations to you. I mean, you helped build this too.

I always want them to remember that they were a part of this. And so obviously your alumni are really big and fan support's really big, and I feel like they all have a piece of it. So I when we won the regular season conference championship I had them all go up there. No, I don't want to go up there and cut the net. Yeah, go up there and cut the net. Like, were you a part of this too. You didn't get an opportunity to cut the net for a regular season championship so you need to get up there and cut it.

So every year when Masseny comes back or Tay comes back we're going to definitely invite them back, and trust me Mass is going to go right up there and probably take the whole net. She's not just going to cut a piece. She's going to take the whole net and give me a piece, which is fine. I don't really need nets.

But I think that's super important in any program. You look at a program like this, and their alumni are all over the place and coming back. I think that's super important to have a really strong program.

Q. I mentioned, I think the program is 0-25 or 0-26 depending upon which set of notes you read, against Florida, so can you talk a little bit about what this game will mean for the state of Florida and, I mean, and I know Miami's playing South Florida as well and then the spotlight that's shining on women's basketball in the state?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: I don't know what the teams in the past did against Florida because I've never played Florida, so I'm not O-25 against them. I got just like, ooh, you know, but you know, with the 25, that was way before, six years ago before we got here.

So I think, I tell my team all the time and you've probably heard me say it a bunch, we just take one game at a time. We don't worry about who we're playing. When our name came up, I think we saw our name and then we were like, oh, oh, that's weird. Like, why would we bring both Florida schools up there, you know?

So I think it doesn't matter to our team who we're playing. We're in the NCAA tournament and we're going to be super excited about that. I think Diamond kind of mentioned it. There's six Florida teams in the NCAA tournament.

Obviously Florida State's gone now, but they played. There's six in the state of Florida. That means the state of Florida is really good in women's basketball. It's not just us. It's not just Florida State. It's not just Miami. It's not just Florida. It's, Florida Gulf Coast, they're so good. I think that says a lot about our state and a lot about our coaches in our state. They're really good. There's really good teams in the state of Florida.

I don't know if there's any or state that has six teams in the NCAA tournament. I think that's really big-time. So I want to make sure that's known because I know all the coaches at all those schools and they're phenomenal coaches, so I'm just, we all probably are like why do we have to play each other? So I think that's why I say I don't think it really mattered who came up on the screen. We're just always going to stay humble and hungry.

Q. March Madness is now up, able to be used in the women's tournament. They're talking about a lot of the equality coming back. You're still though playing on, not on neutral sites in the first and second rounds. So where is this going, what needs to be done and have there, what do you see as improvements?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Yeah, I mean, I think we've come a little way, I'm not going to say a long way, I think women's basketball come a little way, but it needs to go a lot more. We need to keep stepping up and we need all the coaches and in women's basketball to constantly push for equality. I mean that's all we want. We just want to be equal. We want to be equal to what the men are doing because we all work really hard it's not like a men's program works harder than a women's program. I think that's what the push is. We just wants equality and I think the players see it too. It's not the coaches whining or anything we just really are all working for equality in the women's game and it's come, from when I played I actually played, I played everybody, I joke but when I played, geez, it wasn't, we didn't even have -- I'm watching on my phone USF play and cheering for them, and when I played that we weren't even on TV.

So obviously we've come a little way, but we need to keep building on where we're at now and that's another reason why I bring alumni back too because these alumni, they built this program, these programs. So I think we just need to keep, you really pushing forward and the media really helps us. Thank you for that and getting us on TV and writing all the correct things about women and women in sports. I think that really helps and we have a lot of advocates I just talked to C. Vivian Stringer, she called me and was congratulating me and we were talking about some stuff that is still not happening and she -- and I said, Coach, it's going to be up to people like you to push that. And she said Absolutely not, Abe, you're the one now, you got to start having a voice, you got to start pushing. And I'm like yikes, I don't know if I want to do that yet.

But it's going to take really strong women in our game and the men that are coaching women in sports to keep pushing forward because I think we have a really good product and it needs to be highlighted.

Q. Are there specifics? Neutral courts, something that you could specifically point to that you would like to see in the next couple years?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Yeah, I mean, not anything specific, but that's big, that's a big thing. That's, people are -- I think about -- I didn't want Ames, Iowa to come up because I coached there for six years and I didn't really want to go to that site because I know that that's like a, that's a really big-time home court advantage, you know what I mean? So I think that that will be really good. Right now we got to keep media and we keep television and we got to keep getting more fans.

And the neutral sites I don't think really help women in sports because there's not -- a lot of fans don't come. But these programs that have really good fans South Carolina, UCONN, we love UCONN fans, they cheers for us, they're awesome. Iowa State fans are awesome. They're 15,000 deep. They got some great fans. I think the fan support keeps women's basketball at these sites and it's important. That's important because that's revenue and that's money and all that good stuff. But I just think we need to just keep building and keep growing the game and it's not necessarily the coaches, I think the players that have worked really, really hard in every single program it doesn't matter what level you're at, they deserve like I haven't even thought about it, so don't twist this, like it's me, but like just like the gear that the men got and the things that they got for coming to the NCAA tournament, like that's important to these players. They work so hard, they deserve that.

So I think it's all the -- there's a bunch of different little things, I mean, I don't necessarily think our players think, Whew, neutral site or somebody's home court. The players I don't think like that I know the coaches know that those kind of advantages really help the team you're playing.

Q. Where does the chip come that these ladies play with on a regular basis? I mean, you continue to have the success but as coaches it's up to you guys to push buttons, so where does this team, this chip come from?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: I'm pretty chippy. I'm chippy. Chippy. My coaches are chippy too. When I hired -- when I was coaching and started coaching I knew that who you hire is really, really as important as anything and the type of people you higher, they got to be like that. They got to be super competitive they got to have a bunch of passion about the women's game and they got to be very passionate about these young women and I have people on my staff that are so chippy, like they hate to lose, they want to win, they have all been in the NCAA tournament, it's not just Kesh, everybody's been in the NCAA tournament, they really work hard, and that's another reason why we hired Kesh is because she has, so she knows winning and hates losing. So if you ask any of my coaches, they will say they hate losing more than they love winning. That's where the chip comes in. So I think we're all that way and we have recruited players that are the same way. Clearly Mass and Tay are the same way and Diamond's the same way. But obviously it starts with me. Definitely starts with me and I think our team is probably always going to be like that and if any of my coaches get head coaching jobs I'm going to hire another coach that has the same mentality. Because I think it just trickles down, it's a family, so it all trickles down. You raise your family a certain way and they end up that way. So that's kind of how we are.

Q. What's the hardest dance move that your players have taught you?

Q. Or you could show us.
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not. I don't have a dance move. I don't dance. This whole dance thing. They try to teach me to dance and I'm like, oh, my gosh. I should show them our dance moves back in the day.

Q. Who was the first person that you offered when you came to UCF?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON-HENDERSON: Her name is Masseny Kaba. We offered her immediately. I got the job and the next day we called her. (Laughing).
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.