October 5, 2023 | SPORTS | By Grace Ersfield-O’Brien

The Colorado College women’s basketball team is welcoming new assistant coach Mai-Loni Henson as they look forward to an exciting season this fall.

Having just returned from playing professionally in France last March, Henson decided to attend the Final Four to get her name out there in pursuit of a coaching job “to get into the coaching world, it’s all about who you know, and networking.” Ultimately, her name ended up on head coach Katherine Auguste’s desk, leading to her eventual hire.

In terms of her dynamic with the girls on the team, she cites the importance of being a grounded presence for them to lean on.

“Essentially, I’m like a big sister to them. It’s important for someone to fill that role, who they feel comfortable with… I want them to know that they can come to me for anything and everything,” Henson said. 

Henson’s role model in coaching is her high school coach, Terri Bamford, who was recently inducted into the Southern California Basketball Hall of Fame.

“Her and I talk at least on a weekly basis, she’s one of my closest friends,” Henson said.

She hopes to foster a similar kind of relationship with the girls on this team, stating, “that kind of personal relationship builds trust on and off the court. I want to be able to connect with them not just as basketball players, but as young women, as students; I was a student-athlete myself, so I have a lot of connection to and respect for what they do.”

She cites the longevity of a lot of her own connections to coaches and teammates throughout her basketball career and is hoping to create similar relationships.

“I have people in my life that really prioritized building a relationship with me, and that effort is so valuable, because you never know when you could need them, and how important they could be to your life,” Henson said.

As far as her first impressions of the team culture, being someone who has played at the Division I level and can easily recognize the way top players act and come together on a team, she was struck immediately by the girls’ strong work ethic.

“They’re very special. Honestly, they are some of the hardest workers I know. They are genuinely excited and very happy to be here,” Henson said. “Not only do they work well together as a team, but they push each other to become better. They’re probably some of the most competitive players that I’ve been around, and in my career, I’ve been around a lot of very high-level athletes.”

She went on to say that Katherine Auguste and assistant coach, Lisa Guhl, have worked incredibly hard to successfully cultivate a “family atmosphere, where the girls feel heard, and where they are driven to work really hard, which is so rare.”

It seems that the team is very passionate about its culture and goals, considering that Kayla Mackel ’26 echoes Henson’s sentiment that the overall culture is incredibly motivating.

“You can tell that [Henson] is passionate about this job,” Mackel said.

During the few times in the limited preseason where she’s been on the court with the team, Mackel said that, “she pushes us to do the little things well in our drills and brings so much energy every day… I love how active she’s been on our social media page as well.”

This year, the team is hoping to defeat long-time rival Trinity University and make the National Collegiate Athletic Conference championship, which they barely missed achieving last season. Henson sees the rivalry as a great motivator as they begin the season, saying, “everyone is excited to accomplish just that. I’m a very competitive person, and just seeing how passionate the girls are about this rivalry really inspires me.”

According to Henson, the priority is “improving individually on and off the court, and winning is definitely a big part of that.”

To get a first look at the team and Henson in action, be sure to come out to their first game of the season on Nov. 10 in Reid Arena against Nebraska Wesleyan University.

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