Rattler basketball strikes back into action against Fort Valley St.

The Rattlers men’s basketball team gave the home crowd a preview of what’s to come as they defeated Fort Valley State University 89-63 in Saturday’s season-opening exhibition in Gaither Gym.

In a total team effort, the Rattlers had five players scoring in double-digits in the game, led by senior guard Jonathan Kelly who led the team with 16 points.

“We played with good execution,” said senior guard Tony Tate. “We made the extra pass and shared the ball really well.” The team in fact, more than doubled the amount of team assists as their opponent at a 20 to nine deficit. The team also led the Wildcats 35-21 in points off the bench.

With experience not a problem, as the team consists of six seniors, the team chemistry was definitely flowing.

“Experience is definitely one of our strengths,” said senior center Glen Elliot.

“We just click together.” Elliot contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds to the team effort.

While led by senior experience, the younger Rattlers stepped in and made their presence known as well. Freshman guard Joe Ballard led the under-class insurgence with 10 points in the contest.

Head coach Mike Gillespie, Sr., however, was not as impressed with his team’s debut performance.

“We played ok, but we have to play better,” said Gillespie.

“There are many areas we need to improve on,” he said.

“We need to work on our defense, rebounding and do better with mental breakdowns.”

One thing that the Rattlers did especially good in Saturday’s game was shooting the ball. The team landed eight three-point shots on 35 total field goals, shooting an overall 56.5-percent from the field, compared to the Wildcats 40.6-percent.The Rattlers also finished well, converting 42 points in the paint to the Wildcats’ 24.

The Rattlers also ran the floor well, converting eight fast break points and getting back on defense, preventing any Wildcat fast break points.

“I think this team can be really good,” said Gillespie.

“We have to get back to practice and work though.”

The Wildcats’ junior guard Ray Northern scored a game-high 17 points, while sophomore forwards Roderick Hill and Desmond Williams both finished with 12 points.

The Rattlers will have a week to work out their kinks as they officially open the season in Cleveland, Ohio, Saturday Nov. 19, as they take on Cleveland State University. The team’s next contest following that one is up against Division-I Top-10 powerhouse University of Indiana, Nov. 21. That game, set for a 6 p.m. start, will be broadcast on the ESPN Plus channel.

The Rattlers will not see any MEAC competition until Dec. 3, when they take on Bethune-Cookman College, and the team’s confidence is soaring about winning the conference this year.

“I’m riding behind my team 100-percent. We are going to win,” said Tate of the MEAC.

“That’s how I feel and I’m sure the other 12 guys in the locker room feel the same way.”

“If everyone stays healthy, there’s no stopping us,” said Elliot.

The Rattlers will open up their official home campaign immediately following Thanksgiving, Nov. 25, when they take on Florida International University at 7:30 p.m. in Gaither Gym.

Contact Reginald Snowden at famuansports@hotmail.com