Lady Rattlers prepare for new season


Following the most successful season since 1995-96, the Lady Rattlers basketball team wants to bring the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Championship to Florida A&M.

Returning senior Jasmine Grice will be one of the key players this year. Grice, who will be named a team captain, said her goal is to win the MEAC Championship.

Head women’s basketball coach LeDawn Gibson, who joined the program in 2008, is counting on Grice, Kimberly Sparkman and Keturah Martin to carry the team. These three women are the only remaining players from last year.

“We are working to get better,” Gibson said. “I’m working on getting the girls to buy into the system and believe in themselves.”

Last season, Gibson led the Lady Rattlers to a 21-7, 14-2 MEAC regular season record en route to being named MEAC Coach of the Year. The team went 8-3 at home and 12-4 on the road. The Lady Rattlers placed third in the MEAC tournament. Under Gibson, Antonia Bennett won the MEAC Player of the Year, and Qiana Donald won the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year.

Gibson said five key players are sitting out with injuries, ranging from shoulder injuries to torn ACLs. However, she is confident in the team’s ability.

Martin, a criminal justice student from Memphis, Tenn., said the team is quicker and more disciplined this year. As a top defensive player, Martin will play multiple positions and grab the rebounds the team needs to be successful.

“The picture is bigger this year,” Martin said. “It’s bigger than the MEAC. We are looking forward to competing on the big stage and winning a NCAA Championship.”

Though Sparkman is the only returning starter, she is still optimistic about the team’s chances.

 “We expect to come out with great intensity,” Sparkman said.  “Our audience should expect a very exciting season from this year’s women’s basketball team.”

The season begins Friday for the Lady Rattlers as they take on the Jacksonville University Dolphins in Jacksonville at 11:30 a.m.