To call our men’s basketball team dormant would be an understatement; the once morbid men’s basketball program has neared revival since Mike Gillespie’s arrival in 2001.
In Gillespies’ two years as coach of the men’s basketball team he has guided the Rattlers to a respectable 26-31 overall record. His winning percentage of .456 already ranks fourth highest in school history.
Since his coming to FAMU, Gillespie has emphasized hard work, enthusiasm and teamwork not only from his players, but also from the FAMU community.
“My expectation was to build a championship program,” Gillespie said. “If you set your expectations below that you are not doing your job.”
His emphasis on the mental aspects of the game led the Rattlers to a 17-12 record and an 11-7 conference record last season.
“Our team plays with energy and excitement which is what coach brings,” said assistant coach Mike Gillespie Jr. “He’s a big stickler on fundamentals, and is one of the better technicians of the game.”
The 17 victories were the most by any Rattler squad since Willie Booker coached the team to a 17-14 record in 1991. The 11 conference victories marked the first time since the 1999 season the Rattlers had more than 10 overall wins in a season.
“What better way for our university to have pride than to have our two flagship programs be nationally recognized,” Gillespie asked.
The impact he has had on the program is shown through the fact the Rattlers were recently projected to finish first in the conference this season.
“I am very proud in just our third season to be chosen as the preseason No. 1 team for the MEAC, we certainly hope that we are the No. 1 team at the end of the season,” Gillespie said.
On their way to the conference championship, the Rattlers must face a daunting non-conference schedule.
With road games against perennial powers like North Carolina State, Georgia, Florida and last year’s final four participant Marquette, the Rattlers will be able to handle almost any situation that arises in what looks to be an intriguing MEAC this season.
When asked about the supposed lunacy of facing four college powerhouses, Gillespie said, “We relish the opportunity to play the best in the country.”
Gillespie believes this year’s Rattlers have the possibility of making history by winning 20 games, for the first time in 15 years. He also thinks the team can make the NCAA tournament, as conference champions. He believes the team is easily capable of winning a game in the NCAA tournament as well, a feat equaled only by Coppin State in 1997 and Hampton two years ago.
Leading the Rattlers on their quest to fulfill Gillespie’s lofty goals will be seniors Terrence Woods, Moses White, Demarcus Wilkins and OJ Sumter.
With such an experienced lineup Mike Gillespie may have found the formula for winning basketball at FAMU.
“His personality helps him a lot,” said Victor Monaro, a 21-year-old junior forward from Queens, NY. “He doesn’t let anything stop him. He just gets better and better every year.”
Will Brown can be reached at WillBitsGood48@aol.com.