With a new coach and nine new players FAMU’s women’s basketball team is looking forward to a new start to what could be a championship season.
Head Coach LeDawn Gibson is training this season’s team to be one of the strongest Florida A&M University has seen in years.
“She definitely brings leadership and a passion for the game,” said senior guard Deidra Jones regarding Gibson. “She’s so passionate about the game it’s hard not to play for her and feel the same passion from top to bottom.”
Coming out of a twelve-year stint as head coach of Winter Haven High School’s nationally ranked women’s basketball team, Gibson had her first college coaching experience during the 2008-2009 season after the dismissal of former head coach Debra Clark.
“The difference to me is, in high school, the girls work so hard to get to college,” Gibson said. “They still feel like they have something to prove. One of the main things you have to keep in the college circuit is that you’re here, take advantage of it, and use your God-given talent. It’s really easy to lose focus.”
However, now that she has one year of experience under her belt, Gibson feels as if this is the year for the team to finally win the MEAC Championship for the first time since 1999.
“Our ultimate goal is to win the MEAC Championship and put that first banner up in the new gymnasium,” she said.
“Talent-wise, I think we definitely have what it takes to win,” Gibson said. “We have young ladies with a winning mentality. There’s a certain swag you have to carry to be winners and I think we have that.”
According to Gibson, this season’s team possesses a lot of strong qualities to help elevate them to the championship level, including “speed, knowledge of the game, size, and guards that can shoot the ball.”
Lashonda Gaines, a senior guard and transfer student from Jackson State University, agreed.
“We’re very athletic and we run, we jump…we can probably run with the best of them right now,” Gaines said.
This season Gibson is emphasizing the importance of strength training and stamina.
The team’s pre-season conditioning mostly consists of running and weight training.
“I’m not going to lie, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked pre-season,” Gaines said.
However, she said she thinks the training is preparing them for the upcoming season.
“We do a whole lot of running and running drills to keep their legs strong so they don’t burn out,” said Gibson.
Some players also think the closeness and camaraderie that the team possesses off the court will help make the team successful.
Senior guard Deidra Jones, one of the two members of FAMU’s women’s team to make the MEAC all-star team, said, “We have about nine new people, so it’s kind of fun getting to know everybody and seeing how everybody clicks.”
“We get along, and that’s a big plus,” Gaines said. “It’s very rare that you have everyone genuinely care about each other and how they’re doing.”
The new season starts Friday, Nov. 6 in a home exhibition match against Tuskegee University.