McCullum puts focus on little details
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Midway through the second half against Albany State, FAMU guard Craig Bowman dished off a pass to Isaiah Martin, who rushed to the basket for a dunk.
Coach Robert McCullum stood up on the sideline, called Bowman out and gave him a standing ovation.
Two plays later, forward Nick Severado blew an opportunity for a stop that resulted in a basket for the Rams.
Not that it affected the big lead that the Rattlers held at that point, but McCullum chided Severado during the next time out.
McCullum would say later in the post-game press conference at Lawson Center that Severado’s missed opportunity is one of the little details that he’d like to see his players take care of if it’s going to improve.
Every good team that he’s seen covers the small stuff, McCullum said.
“They don’t leave any stone unturned,” he said. “They dot every I and they cross every T. They lay the kind of foundation that can sustain itself.
“I’m convinced that it’s the right way to do it. Hopefully we will have enough guys who will embrace it.”
Enough of the Rattlers did exactly that in the 77-59 victory over Albany State. They forced 21 turnovers and beat the Rams on the boards 37-34. They hit 28 of 60 field goals attempts for 46.7 percent.
McCullum, just in his sixth month as head coach, is trying to rebuild a program that won a combined 17 games in the last three seasons. He inherited a single player from last year’s team, but has put together a roster of mostly transfers that includes red-shirt freshman D.J. Jones from Tulane.
McCullum hasn’t been shy about the task in front of him, knowing that fans are expecting the turnaround to happen quickly. But there is the matter of playing major and mid-major programs for most of the early part of the season.
“At this point all we can do is play the hand we were dealt and play the best we can,” he said. “It’s going to be extremely challenging but our ultimate goal is to play as well as we can play with the intent of these experiences have us well prepared once we begin MEAC play.”
Getting the win over Albany State, their first of the season in five games up to that point, was a reprieve from a hectic road schedule that the Rattlers have been playing in money games. The opponents have been the likes of UNLV, Miami and Mississippi State.
While FAMU was never favored in any of those games, senior Marcus Barham said he and his teammates have taken each game to focus on the specifics that McCullum wants them to improve on.
“It all just adds up to making sure we do all the small things that will add up to the big things,” Barham said. “The small things might not show up on the stat sheet, but it’s all important to getting the win.”
By the time the Rattlers play at home again on Dec. 11 when they face North Florida, they would have played against nine major programs and one against Mercer. It gets a little easier when they face Southern, Fordham and Ball State.
They open conference play Jan. 3 against Howard University at Lawson Center. That’s a date they’re eagerly anticipating.
“We can always count on our fans to pick us up and give us some momentum,” Martin said. “Your mentality changes and you feed off them.”