FAMU Basketball: It’s time for a winning season

The Florida A&M men’s basketball program has tried year after year to bring home a winning season and has fallen short for over a decade now.

The Rattlers are desperate to see a winning season, and I think it is almost laughable to think they will ever get one anytime soon. What is really the problem though? Is it the 15 head coaches FAMU has had over the years? Or, is it the players that FAMU recruits or fails to recruit?

As a student at FAMU who has once served two years with the men’s basketball program, one year as a manager and another as a student coach, I have seen coaches come through having to build a team from scratch literally every year because star players do not want to play for FAMU. FAMU’s star players either transfer for better coaching or better opportunities, which can be a huge blow to a coach’s roster.

For instance, following the 2015 season Malcolm Bernard, who led the team in scoring, transferred to Xavier University and later stated that coaching was the reason why. Bernard averaged 14.4 points a game, also leading the team in steals (2.3) and assists (4.3). Following the 2014 season, leading scorer Jermaine Ruttley transferred to a Division II program after leading the team in points (17.4) and rebounds (5.3). 

Another issue is that players who play for FAMU come through and leave as the same player. Players are automatically limited to growing as an athlete because of limited resources. How can you grow as a team when you barely have access to your own gym?

 FAMU does not own the Al Lawson Center, so players cannot get in the gym at their own school and work on their individual game even if they wanted to.  There is a weight room on the second floor of the gym that players do not have access to. Students in certain classes can use them daily while athletes cannot, and that is a problem.

FAMU coaches also continuously recruit players who lack self-discipline. Players can care less about performing in the classroom, which hinders the team’s ability to progress. Last year’s team went 9-25 while only winning two of its 20 games on the road, with a bench only nine players deep due to ineligible athletes.

Recruiting players that show no sign of dedication to their grades, and then expecting them to miraculously change once they hit campus is a recipe for failure. Countless times I’ve heard players tell me they would rather sit out than to go to practice because they knew they were not getting any playing time. Players do not see a problem with being recruited and then having to sit out for the remainder of the year or semester due to not meeting the 2.0 G.P.A. requirement for athletes.

Lastly, FAMU’s lack of a true big man has always been a problem and will continue to be a problem if they do not find the right guy.

There have been FAMU players blessed to be 6-foot-8 and taller, but they struggled to score and could barely grab two rebounds in a game. Former power forward Treavann Warren started for most of the 2016 season and only averaged four points a game. Last season, the team did not even have a big that could score (and stay eligible) so players had to play out of their position 

The program brings in so many guards that FAMU might have forgotten what a big man looks like. In the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, you might not find post players who can score efficiently, but they can at least be defensively sound and give you 10 rebounds. FAMU lacks that presence down low and it shows.

So, what does all this mean? In a nutshell, the Rattlers may be a mess and in search of a winning season for more years to come. After losing 50 percent of their scoring in shooting guard Marcus Barham and forward Desmond Williams after going overseas, there seems to be no structure going into this season.