Men’s basketball revitalizes itself

He’s been up and running since four in the morning. He’s attended early morning mass, ran some laps and washed dirty uniforms. It’s nine o’clock now and his day hasn’t even begun. A lot goes into creating a competitive college basketball team.

It’s been a long seven months since the Rattlers bowed out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s men’s basketball tournament in March. And even though the season technically ended that night in Norfolk Va., coach Mike Gillespie never stopped working.

This year’s version of the men’s basketball team has been almost completely revamped as it boasts Gillespie’s second and probably most significant recruiting class.

Guards Terrance Woods and Moses White are transfer students from the University of Tennessee and Tallahassee Community College respectively. Both players are expected to make major contributions to the team.

“Terrance Woods is a great shooter and Moses White will really be able to push the ball up the court for us. He’s very quick with the ball.” Gillespie said.

Woods was able to watch from the bench last year while sitting out the mandatory year for inter-division transfers.

Gillespie said he believes that with this new talent he has assembled the Rattlers can “breeze through the MEAC.” The Rattlers finished the season last year with a record of 9-9 in conference play, a marked improvement over the conference records of two years ago. Gillespie and his staff are hoping that familiarity with the league will improve their chances for success.

“Last year was my first year in the league, and now I know the teams and (opposing) players better,” Gillespie said.

The Rattlers will return to the run-and-gun style of offense that has become a staple of Gillespie teams. In order for the run and gun to be effective, the Rattlers will rely on senior center Jermaine Hill to create fast-break opportunities with rebounding and blocked shots. According to Gillespie, Hill has been the team’s most improved player over the last two years. He spent this off-season working on his low post game to better prepare himself for a league that is now fully aware of his potential.

“I thought I had a decent season last year,” Hill said. “I led the league in blocks, and I plan to again. I also plan on being a real presence in the post this year,” Hill said.

“Last year I deferred to my teammates a lot, but this year I’m going to be more aggressive.”

Hill’s game isn’t the only one that’s been undergoing changes. According to coach Gillespie, junior point guard Demarcus Wilkins is “learning to be an outstanding true point guard” this season, and that means shooting less. Wilkins was second on the team in scoring last year, averaging 12.6 points per game. But with the addition of Woods, and White, the anticipated emergence of Hill, and contributions from transfer forwards O.J Sumter and Michael Ayodele, his shots might be sparse.

“We have a lot of scorers on this team and being a pure point guard isn’t hard but if I get an open shot I’m going to take it.” Wilkins said.

The Rattlers plan to implement an 11-man rotation to be sure that fresh legs are always available to execute the run and gun, and the quick-strike Rattlers will need fresh legs during the first two months of the season when they play Xavier University and the universities of Cincinnati, Florida and Oregon. These four games will bring in $150,000 dollars to the athletic department and also pit the Rattlers up against some of the best players in the nation.

Gillespie is anxious to play the big four and see exactly what his team can do, but there is no mistaking why these games where put on the schedule.

“We want to go in there and win. We want to put our guys up against the best teams in the country,” Gillespie said.