As the sports world comes to halt, The Red & Black has taken some time to look back on the senior seasons of Georgia women’s basketball players Stephanie Paul and Ari Henderson.
Georgia finished its season following a quarterfinals loss to No. 1 South Carolina in the SEC tournament play on March 6. As the NCAA took necessary action to cancel the national tournaments it meant an abrupt end to the careers of many seniors.
Paul and Henderson have played a large role in the start to head coach Joni Taylor’s career as they were a part of her second recruiting class.
Paul came to Georgia as a freshman for the 2016-17 season. She was pushed straight into a large role as one of the first choices off the bench in her first two seasons. Paul played 28 games in both her freshman and sophomore year and started 11 of them. Scoring 140 points and pulling down 105 rebounds in just her second season showed that Paul had the potential to be a great player.
Junior year was the breakout year for Paul as she played 29 games and started 19 of them. 2018-19 would also be her best season statistically as she averaged 7.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. She was third on the team for both rebounds and blocks her junior year. This constant production led to Paul being a leader and starter during her senior year.
Paul started in all 31 games Georgia played in the 2019-20 season. Although she had another solid year statistically, Paul’s senior year was highlighted by leadership. As a fourth year player on an inexperienced team, Paul had to set an example of hard work and hustle for the other players to follow. Playing with energy and purpose was one way Paul set an example for the younger players. After her final home game the senior starter knew her Georgia career had come to an end.
“I always try to go out there and play with a lot of energy and I’m gonna miss it a lot,” Paul said.
Stephanie Paul has played a large part in shaping the talented team that Georgia will put on the floor next season. Fellow senior Ari Henderson played a very different role as a Georgia Bulldog.
Henderson was not recruited to be a part of the 2016-17 class like Paul was. When coach Taylor saw a need for filling another roster spot she held open tryouts to accept a walk-on. After watching Henderson’s tryout, Taylor knew that was the type of player she wanted playing for her team.
Henderson was never a huge contributor on the stat sheet. She only saw minutes in six games during her senior campaign and only started one game throughout her career. She did, however, play a large role in preparing the Bulldogs for each game. She was the leader of the scout team which ran the opposing team’s offense for the starters to practice against. This meant studying tons of film and working hard to push the starters as much as she could.
“[Henderson] helps with preparing for each game from the scout team. She goes through the other team’s offense and really pushes us and kills us on offense,” Paul said. “She gets buckets left and right.”
This production does not go unnoticed as Taylor and all of the players recognize Henderson as one of the most important members of the squad.