CHATTING WITH HEAD WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH NIKI REID GECKELER
Question: You are hours away from embarking on three months of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference action, how did non-conference play prepare the team for the conference road?
Coach G: We had a very challenging out-of-conference schedule with nationally ranked opponents and I feel that every game tested us in different ways. We have always been a defensively oriented team and we have played some of the best perimeter and post players in the country with this non-conference schedule. So, I truly believe that this schedule has prepared us for the tough MEAC games that we have ahead.
Question: Currently, you are at .500 and boasting victories against Temple, Pepperdine, Loyola (Md.), Mount Saint Mary's and Bowie State, how did you achieve those wins and what has been the consistent coaching strategy in those wins.
Coach G: Defense…defense…defense. Our young ladies understand that they must defend in order for us to win games. The Temple game truly supports my philosophy. Defense along with a blue-collar approach and teamwork will help propel us in this conference this season. I am proud of our young ladies and the defensive effort that they bring to the hardwood each and every day.
Question: What growth and understanding have you gained from your losses?
Coach G: Our losses always force the staff and I to reflect on areas of improvement. We want to be playing our best basketball in the months of February and March so as a staff we continue to teach, motivate and make sure our young ladies remain together during those challenging moments.
Coach G: Four of these young women started for us a season ago and led this team to a 24-9 record and a postseason bid. Jerelle Gorham has worked hard during the off-season and earned herself the final fifth starting position. The chemistry that they bring to the court has proven to be beneficial for the program.
Question: On Jan. 4, 2013, Saadia Doyle reached her second season-best outing with 32 points what did you tell to get such an outstanding offensive outing?
Coach G: Saadia is a special player who always steps up when her team needs her. She has proven that she can play with the best of them as she had 36 points at Penn State early in November. Her offensive performance against Temple was one of the best I have witnessed. She was effective in the paint, with her midrange game and even from the 3-point line. When you have a special player like this it is our job to put her in situations to score and she has done that for us this season.
Question: Cheyenne Curley-Payne is 5 feet 4 inches, but continues to be a top rebounder, especially in the defensive rebounding category, how does she do it?
Coach G: She may be 5'4" but her heart, her grit and her passion for the game makes you think she is 6'4. As a head coach you want that point guard who can run the show and one who commands the respect of her teammates...that is Cheyenne Curley-Payne. She has a tremendous basketball IQ and her timing is impeccable, she is a head coaches dream.
Question: What excites you the most about conference play?
Coach G: This conference is so competitive and you can see it by the wins that several of our MEAC counterparts have won. So what excites me the most is the fact that every game in conference play will be a fight and you must bring your best basketball every night.
Question: Would you like to say anything to Howard Lady Bison fans and followers?
Coach G: Every city we have traveled to whether it is Malibu, Calif., or Columbus, Ohio or Chicago, Ill., or our faithful DC metropolitan family, there has been great support for our program. I would like to say thank you Bison Nation and we will continue to work hard to make the Mighty Blue and White proud! HU...You Know!