Florida A&M University Developmental Research School’s girls’ basketball team is looking forward to big things this season, and repeating as state champions is definitely on its agenda.
With a convincing 81-56 win over Bradenton Christian in the state final game, the Baby Rattlers (30-4) made history by winning the Class 1-A girls’ basketball championship last season; a first in their school’s history.
Ahmad Aliyy, in his first season as head coach last year, led his squad to its first state title.
“Last year the pieces were there, and we just put it all together,” he said.
This year, the pieces might be harder to put together. FAMU DRS lost two seniors who were leaders and major contributors to the team last year; two players the team really depended on.
Unfortunately, the reigning state champs are headed into this season without their best player and team leader, Jessica Hall.
Hall was a 1st team All-State player and ranked in the top 10 in Florida by Break-down.com. She was also awarded Player of the Year honors in the Big Bend last season, and now plays at the University of Memphis.
Brittany Hudson, now at Georgia State College, along with Hall, left her mark at FAMU DRS last year. With the lost of Hudson and Hall, Aliyy will definitely be depending on another duo to pick up where they left off.
“We’ll be looking for LeSheria Stevens and Nadirah Gardner to have a big impact for us this season,” he said. “LeSheria is the only senior we have this year, and Nadirah was one of the nation’s top freshman last year.”
The tandem will be for most of the team’s offensive production and leadership. They will be the most focused on players by opposing defenses. Stevens is the team’s returning leading scorer, averaging 15 points per game, while Gardner was second with 12 points per game.
There is an abundance of young players in the 8th, 9th and 10th grade that will also have the opportunity to play significant minutes and make an impact.
“This year we are coming into the season more serious and focused, because we want to get back to the championship,” said LeSheria Stevens, a senior and 2nd team All-State player last year. The Baby Rattlers already know what they will be up against this season. Class 3A East Gadsden finished second in the state final game last year and is expected to be FAMU DRS’ toughest competition, along with other area teams such as Leon, Florida High and Godby.
“We’re a small Class 1A school, but we’ll play anybody. East Gadsden and Leon will be the toughest teams in the area we will have to face,” Aliyy said.
Some newcomers are also expected to play an important role in the team’s success this season. Sophomore Cache Heidel, who plays power forward, transferred from Washington to play for FAMU DRS.
“I have seen some games of how we run up and down, and I am used to playing that style,” Heidel said.
The Baby Rattlers do not have the height that other high schools have. They are mostly a guard-oriented team that has to use their quickness and speed in the open court to score.
“We’re going to have to use our quickness and be patient with the ball, because we probably won’t be a very good rebounding team,” Aliyy said.
“As long as we stay focused and establish who will be the leaders, we will be fine.”
Contact Jonathon Kelly at email@example.com