Freshmen welcomed on court

There will be four new additions suiting up for the Florida A&M University’s Lady Rattlers basketball team this season, and they are working hard to fit in.

Head Coach LaDawn Gibson said she expects her top freshmen, Quina Donald, Antonia Bennett and Tameka McKelton to make an immediate impact on the court.

There will be one starting freshman, but the coaches said they are not sure who it will be yet. They said others will play key roles by scoring and playing defense.

Antonia Bennett, a physical therapy student from Lakeland, said the team has been working hard to prepare for the season.

“Leading up to the season we’ve been working on drills, conditioning, and weightlifting,” Bennett said.

Gibson said she witnessed the abilities of two of her freshmen firsthand when she coached them at Winter Haven (Fla.) High School, her previous position, which led to their recruitment.

“Tameka is a great guard with scoring ability and Antonia is a good athlete that can play multiple positions,” Gibson said.

Bennett said Gibson trains the team very hard.

“Playing against Coach Gibson was very intense,” Bennett said. “I think I can thrive in the system she’s implementing here at FAMU.”

Gibson said the Rattlers will run an up-tempo offense with a heavy emphasis on runnin

Tameka McKelton said her and her fellow freshmen teammates have grasped the “X’s” and “O’s” of Gibson’s game plan, which has been the hardest part of the transition from high school to college.

Gibson emphasized the need for the freshmen to adjust as soon as possible.

“I need them to grow up real quick,” Gibson said. “I’m looking for my freshman to come out every game and contribute to the team by playing fundamental basketball.” 

Senior Stephanie Foster from Columbus, Ohio, said the freshmen will need more than just skills to succeed on the court but they will progress over the course of the season.

Ashley Hampton, a freshman from Ocala, said she thinks the biggest obstacle she and her teammates face is “getting up to play every day and staying focused.”

Gibson said the freshmen are mentally prepared to deal with the challenges of the upcoming season.

“We need to play every game as if it were our last,” Gibson said. “The best intangible aspect of the freshmen’s game is their mental toughness, once they get more heart they will be able to get through the ups and downs of a season.”

Besides being mentally tough, the freshmen said they are a close-knit group, who stick together in the face of adversity.

Bennett said her biggest contribution to the team is her leadership and wholesome attitude on and off the court.

The Lady Rattlers said the upperclassmen have taken on the roles of big sisters, stressing the importance of being a student athlete.

Stephanie Foster, along with the other seniors, said they have left them with the most important advice, “If you miss class you miss the game.”

Gibson said the freshman will do fine this season.

“Their desire to play alongside the affection they [have for] older players will get them to do what they need to do,” Gibson said.