The Florida A&M University High School boys’ basketball team is ready to start another season. But being disciplined and well conditioned is a major issue.
On a team with only three seniors, the Baby Rattlers are searching for an identity and looking for leadership.
Head Coach Ron Graham is coming into his second season at FAMU High. He was a former coach at Jefferson County High School, where he was a junior varsity coach. Graham is planning on instilling his tough attitude and discipline into the players.
“Our biggest thing has to be attitude,” Graham said.
“When we hit the floor, we have to know we’re going to win.”
Winning games is going to depend on the boys’ conditioning and being in shape, along with the style of basketball they will play.
“Last year, we pressed a lot, but we weren’t in shape enough to do well. I want to bring in discipline and a sense of urgency of getting these kids in shape,” Graham said.
The team tried to force a lot of pressure on its opponents last season but weren’t quite ready for the exhaustion they would feel from running up and down the court non-stop.
“We will be an up-tempo team that puts a lot of pressure on the ball,” Graham said.
D.J. Marshall, 17, a 5-foot-10-inch senior combo guard, said, “We have been doing a lot of running, so everybody is in pretty good shape. I have to leave it all on the court because there is no tomorrow for me.”
The Baby Rattlers are returning two keys players that both averaged 17 points per game last season. Marshall and 6-foot-3-inch senior forward Javares Knight will be counted on heavily to lead the team to the promise land.
“Our whole team is returning, and last year we were one game away from state,” Knight said.
They were 13-13 last season, but with the entire team returning and players being in shape, ready to play hard, the Baby Rattlers are focused on doing what the girls’ team did eight months ago.
“I expect us to win state this year; we just have to take it one step at a time,” Knight said.
Taking it one step at a time is exactly what they will have to do. The Baby Rattlers will face usual city competition such as Godby, Leon and Lincoln high schools, as well as the team that beat everyone in the area last season, Rickards High School.
Those games do not matter as much as the district games, in which the Baby Rattlers were runner up to district champions, Apalachicola High School.
“When we play Apalachicola, we have to play hard and just run with them. They only have one player,” Marshall said.
Basketball is all about learning and so is life. There also has to be some element of fun in one’s life. That is the approach Coach Graham is bringing to his team.
“I want to teach these kids life through basketball. You can’t play this game without having fun,” he said.
Contact Jonathon Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org