Athletes and fans to go mad for basketball

As the clock strikes midnight, a new day arrives. This is fitting as tonight marks the return of Rattler basketball. Midnight Madness signals the official start of practice for the FAMU men’s and women’s teams. Both squads are excited and optimistic about the upcoming season.

LaKeisha Alexander, a sophomore forward/center from Orange Park called for the Rattler faithful to hold the team to a high standard.

“Expect success. We’re young, but athletic. I don’t think anyone can compete with us.”

The Lady Rattlers appear confident in their quest to regain conference supremacy, as Alexander goes on to add, “the MEAC Championship is our goal.”

The men’s team also strives to capture the conference title. Senior guard Jonathan Kelly of Tallahassee also shared his views on the upcoming year. In fact, he has already predicted a victory for one game that is especially important to the University.

“We’re gonna beat B-CC. It’s the last game of the year Saturday, March 4th. I already have my calendar marked,” Kelly said.

Both teams look forward to seeing orange and green in full force this evening and throughout the upcoming season. The event will provide a sneak peek of the men’s and women’s teams. The Lady Rattlers lead off the showcase with an intra-squad scrimmage. After the women’s squad faces off against a familiar “opponent” – each other, the men take the floor in the same vein.

Both squads expect to put on a fast-paced, non-stop show in Gaither Gymnasium.

The unveiling of the 2005-06 edition of the Rattler basketball program is not the only expected treat for fans. In an effort to elicit crowd participation, music and dancing will be featured.

Students should also look for door prizes and giveaways. A 3-point shooting contest and dunk contest are tentatively scheduled to take place as well.

Students also eagerly await the commencement of a new basketball season.

“I’m really optimistic about this season coming up. I feel that the men’s and women’s teams have the potential to be very good,” Isha Brown, a 19-year-old sophomore English student from Miami, said. Niki Washington, women’s assistant coach, also enters the season upbeat.

“We were picked to finish 7th in the conference because we’re young and lost five seniors from last year’s team. We are very talented and look to surprise people.”

Washington notes that the team is very young but does not feel that a lack of experience will detract from their championship aspirations. The women’s roster includes five freshmen, five sophomores, one junior, and two seniors.

Tonight’s Basketball Explosion – as the event has been dubbed – will serve as an “appetizer for the students,” in the words of Coach Washington. The men’s squad returns an experienced group.

The roster includes six seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. The head coaches and sports information directors of the MEAC have picked the men’s team to finish 5th in the conference.

Head coach Mike Gillespie attributes this selection to a number of reasons.

“Our schedule is extremely difficult. We travel to Ohio State, Indiana, Florida, and Georgia. Our schedule is difficult, but we offer no excuses.”

The doors open for tonight’s event at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $1 and the proceeds will benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The women’s team is scheduled to take the floor at 9:30 p.m. in Gaither Gym.

The men’s team is set to scrimmage amongst themselves at 10:30 p.m.

Contact John Marsh at