Men don’t fear taking their show on the road

The friendly confines of home sweet home usually offer an atmosphere where people feel most comfortable.

At times, it can serve as the single place where there are very few outside pressures and no obligations to impress anyone.

Ask the men’s basketball team, and they’ll give you an affirmative answer: there’s a lot of love for the Rattler wilderness on Wahnish Way.

But what about the times when Florida A&M University players venture out of that comfort zone and take their act on the road?

Rattler senior guard Tony Tate couldn’t be more comfortable.

“We have more fun on the road than at home,” Tate said.

“Just being around the fellas, it’s more relaxing. That’s probably when you see the best chemistry of our team. We’re really together.”

The Rattlers have scheduled 19 away games this season and faced the Howard Bison Monday night in Washington.

The average road trip begins when the team assembles at the gym at 5:30 a.m. From there, it’s on to the airport to catch an early morning flight.

That’s a totally new basketball experience for freshman guard Joe Ballard, who had previously always ridden a bus on road trips.

“In high school, you go somewhere and you’re coming right back home,” said Ballard. “In college, you’re staying out for weeks.”

Being away from home requires packing, and Tate has a set routine on what he brings.

“I have to have snacks,” Tate said. “I also bring my clippers, headphones and iPod.”

Juelz Santana and Lil’ Wayne help Ballard relax on flights – that is, if he isn’t sleeping. He said he makes sure he has all of his basketball gear, but he tries to pack light.

Ballard labeled the senior guard from Tallahassee, Jonathan Kelly, as the heaviest packer on the team.

“He packs everything you need, but he just packs so much of it,” Ballard said.

Kelly refuted the playful jab, saying everything he packed was a necessity. He said he packs extra socks, practice gear, sweats and white tees. Kelly also didn’t shy away from pointing fingers.

“Mike Sams packs a lot. So does Tony (Tate),” Kelly, said with a laugh. “How does Joe know what I pack anyway? He’s never even been my roommate.”

Each player usually packs an outfit they can step-out-fresh-to-death in because they are not exclusively locked down in the hotel.

They frequent the malls and go to movies to take their minds off upcoming games.

Both Tate and Ballard agreed that the trips to Hampton, Va., stand out over the others.

“The style and the environment of the city reminds me of home,” said Tate, who is from Jersey City, N.J.

Head coach Mike Gillespie might seem to be a very intense and emotional person.

But Tate said Gillespie is a much more laid-back guy on road trips.

“He tries to make it feel like home and keeps everybody relaxed,” Tate said. “But the coach that really relates to us is coach Avery (Curry).”

Curry said he doesn’t like to change the routine of what he calls a business trip, but he also stresses that they have fun.

And he gets laughs from the team by dropping a joke here and there.

“I’ve joked that Glen (Elliot) has the worst hair in the NCAA,” Curry said, while Tate laughed from the rear. “I’ve also said that (Jonathan Kelly) is the slowest African-American basketball player in the NCAA too.”

With such a loose atmosphere, the Rattlers never forget about the purpose of the trip – to get a victory.

“Coming from Chicago and playing in the Red West (Division), I’m used to crazy crowds,” Ballard said. “But you can really stick it to them if you steal one on their floor.”

Contact LeMont Calloway at