Rattlers renew MEAC rivalry

The Florida A&M University Rattlers basketball team (2-5, 0-0 MEAC) will begin their run in the MEAC title this Saturday as they take on the Bethune-Cookman College Wildcats. 

Senior Rome Sanders has been the team’s leader this season. Sanders, whose efforts last week placed him among the All-Tournament Team at the Chicago Invitational Challenge, said: “We have to come out playing hard. This is a rivalry game and we would love to come out on top.” 

FAMU is coming off a 10-day, five-game road trip to Illinois for the Chicago Invitational Challenge and a match up against the University of Illinois at Chicago.

During their time in Illinois, the Rattlers struggled to get baskets to fall while shooting a measly 35 percent from the floor. The most notable missing piece of the Rattlers’ attack was the fact that they struggled to get offensive rebounds during the road trip. 

In a loss to the UIC Flames, the Rattlers allowed the Flames to scoop up in 31 defensive rebounds.  Despite their lack of prowess on the boards, the Rattlers have had some bright spots on the roster.

L.C. Robinson, a junior transfer student, has been playing up to expectations this year, averaging 9.4 points per game. Against UIC, Robinson scored 16 points, 12 of which came from 3-pointers. 

Sanders, who has been a presence in the middle for the Rattlers, averaging 16.3 points per game, said he is hoping for his best performance Saturday. 

“Last year we lost to Bethune really bad, and we need this win to get us through the MEAC,” Sanders said. 

FAMU has been injury-plagued for most of the season, and the coaching staff is hoping that they are finally running on all cylinders against B-CC this Saturday. 

“We need to continue to improve defensively, but our first priority is to get everyone healthy,” assistant coach Mike Gillespie Jr. said. “We have not practiced once this season where we have had all 10 guys on the court. Hopefully the B-CC game will be our first game where we present a healthy squad.” 

Preseason All-MEAC forward Brian Greene has been plagued with an ankle and has missed the team’s past three games. The 6-foot-5-inch, 210-pound Jacksonville native is expected to play this Saturday’s rivalry classic against B-CC.

This will be the team’s first crack at MEAC competition this season. Head coach Mike Gillespie said the game would set a tone for the rest of the season.

“Obviously, the first conference game takes on a little bit more importance because we need to start out on the right foot. We are playing 13 home games this season and our team goal is to go 13-0 here at our house.” 

The Rattlers have high hopes to make it back to the NCAA Tournament this year. The last time the Rattlers made it to the tournament was 2004 under the same coaching staff with a similar-styled team.  This Saturday’s game may play a huge role in achieving that goal. 

“We have to approach every game the same and concentrate on only the challenge at hand,” Gillespie said.