The 2005-2006 basketball season has been a trip through valleys and peaks for the Florida A&M (12-16, 8-8 MEAC) men’s team. The team has been ranked as high as second in the MEAC but is now down to seventh in the conference.
However in a conference that is evenly matched from top to bottom, the Rattlers have not given up on a NCAA Tournament bid.
“When the (MEAC) tournament starts everyone is 0-0. The three or four wins we’re going to need to win the championship are still in our sights,” forward Rome Sanders said.
The team has to regain its focus in order to finish the season with a winning record in the conference.
“(Head Coach) Gillespie has stressed our turnovers in the last five games. If we continue to turn the ball over, we limit our scoring opportunities,” said Sanders, 21, a junior criminal justice major from Chicago.
Twelve first-half turnovers against Delaware State last Saturday forced the Rattlers into an uphill battle for the rest of the game.
“We know that if we keep working hard, the offense is going to click again soon,” Sanders said.
A win against Hampton (12-13, 10-6 MEAC) tonight would give the team a boost going into the season finale against Bethune-Cookman (15-12, 11-5 MEAC). After BCC, the Rattlers roll into the conference tourney.
The FAMU men will have to be at the top of their game when the team travels to Virginia to take on the Pirates. Hampton center Bruce Brown was voted preseason MEAC Player of the Year.
Brown averages 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. His partner in the post, forward Jaz Cowan, leads the team with an average of 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
FAMU centers Akini Adkins and Glen Elliott, along with forwards Rome Sanders and Jonathan Kelly will have the task of shutting down the Hampton duo.
The battle in the frontcourt will be key for the Rattlers on defense. Look for guards Tony Tate and Brian Greene to provide the sparks for the FAMU offense.
As the road for the Lady Rattlers (9-16, 5-11 MEAC) heads north to Virginia to face the Lady Pirates of Hampton (6-20, 6-10 MEAC), the team is still learning and growing as a unit.
Close games have provided valuable experience to the squad. This experience will be key as the team heads into the MEAC tournament.
“Regardless of the outcome of those tight games, each one of us has learned something. Win or lose, we take the bright spots of each game and apply that to the next game,” freshman guard Deidra Jones said.
Focus has been the difference between wins and losses. While the team has been able to overcome turnovers when they play at home, too many mistakes limit the team’s chances when on the road.
“We have to come out with more energy when we play on the road. It seems that sometimes we can start out lifeless, and by the time we get focused and pull it together, it’s too late,” said Jones, a pharmacy major from Powder Springs, Ga.
One player to watch from Hampton will be multi-talented guard Rachel Butler. The sophomore guard is averaging 15.4 points and 1.2 assists per game.
“She can dribble-penetrate and shoot from the outside, so it’s going to be a team effort to stop her,” Jones said.
Sophomore forward Monica Rogers is the team’s second scoring threat with 11.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Following tonight’s game against Hampton, the Lady Rattlers finish the season at home against Bethune-Cookman (4-21, 3-13 MEAC).
After that its tournament time as the squad heads to Raleigh, N.C. to begin the push toward a conference championship.
In this conference, don’t count out the Lady Rattlers when it comes time for the MEAC tournament.
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