The FAMU Women’s Basketball team has one goal in mind for 2017-18: Winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship.
FAMU won its’ last MEAC Tournament title in 1999, and their last regular season conference title in 1996, but head coach LeDawn Gibson and her staff are determined to end that long drought this season.
Gibson embarks on her 10th season at the helm of the FAMU Women’s Program in 2017-18, and plans on riding the momentum of last season’s second half finish which propelled them to the MEAC Tournament semifinals – the program’s deepest tourney run in several years – to a championship finish.
Picked by the league’s coaches and SIDs to finish sixth in the 2017-18 regular season chase, FAMU hopes to defy the odds as they did a year ago, when their second half surge boosted them past a similar sixth place prediction into a Number Four tournament seed.
Three key losses from last year’s 13-18 (9-7 in MEAC) aggregation include Alicia McCray, a 5-11 forward, who average 6.4 rebounds and 5.2 points per game, with 42 assists and 18 blocked shots; guard Cedricka Sweeting, 5-5 guard who scored at a 6.4 point per game clip, with 67 assists and 22 steals, and Victoria Nguyen, who had 45 steals, 55 assists to go with a 3.2 per game scoring average.
Back to lead the Rattler charge up the MEAC mountaintop will be nine letterwinners from last year, headed by Preseason All-MEAC selection, 6-0 senior forward Shakeyrra Morrison, 5-10 junior guard Florence Ouattara, and 5-7 senior guard Ecenur “E” Yurdakul.
Morrison, from Zebulon, N.C., was second in the MEAC in rebounding at 9.7 per game overall, with an 11.1 per game average in conference games. She also averaged 8.1 points per game, with 13 blocked shots and 52 steals.
Ouattara, from the Ivory Coast of Africa, is a high energy backcourt performer, who has a superb all around game. A year ago, she came on strong in the second half as FAMU surged, finishing with an 8.5 scoring average and a 2.6 rebounding norm to go with 53 steals and 43 assists, combined with a .295 three-point shooting percentage.
Yurkdakul, from Istanbul, Turkey, is a rangy performer who can play the point or the two guard spots. A junior college transfer last season, “E” averaged 5.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, shot .296 from distance, and .750 from the foul line, adding 34 assists and 24 steals.
Also returning to the fold for 2017-18 is 6-4 junior center Shalunda “LaLa” Burney-Robinson from Palmdale, Calif., who averaged 6.8 points and 4.6 rebounds overall (8.8 ppg, 5.9 rbs in MEAC play), shooting 53 percent from the floor, with 14 blocked shots; senior guard Dawn King, a 5-9 native of Dallas, Tex., who averaged 5.4 points and 1.3 boards, with 15 steals, 12 assists, while shooting at a .268 clip from three-point range; sophomore forward Dy’Manee Royal, who averaged in 3.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 10 blocked shots, and 5-9 senior guard Jamella Smith, who chipped in 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds as a freshman a year ago.
Rounding out the returning nine are a pair of sophomores, 6-3 center Ny’Asia Davis from Starke, Florida (2.6 ppg, 2.8 rbs, 12 blocked shots), and 5-11 guard/forward Taylor Darks from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Newcomers to the FAMU cause in 2017-18 include a pair of transfers, graduate transfer guard/forward Gabrielle Holston from Margaret, Ala., by way of East Carolina, and 5-10 junior guard Ama Arkoful from Jacksonville, Fla., by way of Chipola College.
A trio of true freshmen will make their collegiate premieres with FAMU in November: guards De’Ayra Davis, a 5-7 performer from Omaha, Nebraska, and Zhymani Smith, a 5-7 signee from Hampton, Va., and 6-2 forward/center Mikayla Thomas from Miami, Fla.
FAMU will open the season on November 10 at Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, and they will make their home debut on Wednesday, November 22 against Sacred Heart University in the Lawson Center.
The Rattler Women will host two home games in December – Lynn University on December 7, and North Florida on December 10, before opening Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play in Lawson on Wednesday, January 3 against Howard University.
For more on the FAMU Women’s Basketball team, including the schedule, team roster, statistics and seasonal updates, and FAMU Athletics, log on to www.FAMUAthletics.com.