As an ardent watcher of FAMU basketball, it been 229 days since the Rattlers tipped off last spring. And like many, I was excited for the recent exhibition game against Edward Waters.
Fans and students alike are excited to see the changes head coach Robert McCollum will make going into his second year. After watching the game on Thursday, my insights and observations have been put into what we can call the starting five.
1. Life without Desmond Williams and Marcus Barham
Regardless of any opponent, Williams and Barham made their presence felt on the offensive side of the ball. The Rattlers’ exhibition game against Edward Waters proved that they missed the previous leading scorers from last year. McCollum still has high praise for their contributions to the program. In the post-game press conference, he said one of the challenges is finding two guys who can score 35 points together.
FAMU’s offense had a slow start, only scoring four points seven minutes into the game. As the game progressed, the Rattlers were able to find their rhythm and spread the scoring between Bryce Morgane, Justin Ravenel, and M.J Randolph. The three players combined for 43 points.
2. Projected Lineup
In the matchup against Edward Waters, the Rattlers’ starting lineup was sophomore guard Karmon Reaves, senior guard Justin Ravenel, sophomore forward Bryce Morgane, junior power forward Ifeanyi Umezurike, and center DJ Jones. Ifeanyi and the other big guys did not get their usual amount of minutes because the Tigers were running a small lineup. This game was just an exhibition, but it showed that the roster has quality depth from the other positions.
Moving forward in the season, I would like to see whom McCollum surrounds around Ravenel.
3. McCollum winning record
In his first year, McCollum’s overall record was 9-25 with a quarterfinal loss to Hampton in the MEAC tournament.
With a year under his belt, McCollum needs to shift the program to a winning culture. The changing of the culture starts with the seven new team members recruited by his staff. Three junior college prospects are among those seven newcomers, and hopefully the junior college transfers can come in and provide immediate support to the team. The only challenge from last year is providing academic resources for the players to achieve in the classroom.
4. Early prediction
My prediction for this year is that Ravenel will be a breakout player for the Rattlers; more specifically, that Ravenel will make one of the All – MEAC teams.
As it pertains to the whole team, I feel it is too early to predict a season record accurately. However, the schedule highlights a variety of Power Five and mid-major programs. The Power Five programs on the schedule are Oregon, DePaul, Utah, and Georgia Teach. The mid-major team will be Memphis, Loyola Marymount, Portland, USF, South Alabama, Jacksonville, and North Florida.
The scheduling for the team allows growth and gameplay experience for MEAC conference play in January.
Tracy Hector Jr, one of the seven junior college transfers, is expected to contribute to the Rattlers in a big way. McCollum described him as one of his most versatile players on the team.
The start to his season has been a bit shaky for Hector, as he had to wait three weeks for the MRI on an injury suffered in practice. After his MRI, the trainers would not clear him for full- contact in practice for another 10 days. Conditioning will be one his biggest adjustments for a couple of games in the season.