Basketball recruits raise McCullum’s optimism about next season

Robert McCullum, head men’s basketball coach at FAMU, is confident about his class of recruits.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Immediately after introducing his current class of eight recruits at a mid-week meeting with reporters, coach Robert McCullum pronounced them capable enough to make next season a winning one for the FAMU men’s basketball team.

Three of the players he introduced last Wednesday at the Lawson Center come from mid-majors, including two who played at Stetson, a high school standout from Lakeland and four who have played at junior colleges.

They were recruited through the NCAA transfer portal, a move that McCullum said was done with a sense of purpose. The bottom line is he wants to build a team that would do much better than last year’s squad that ended the season in 10th in the SWAC with a 7-22 record.

The season that starts in the fall will be the Rattlers’ third in the SWAC.

“I could not be more excited about this class that we have signed,” said McCullum, who is in his seventh season at the helm of FAMU’s program.

Specifically, he wants to build a team that would be more competitive in non-conference games. Each season the Rattlers play a top-heavy schedule that is made up mostly of Power Five programs.

Last year’s opponents included the likes of Oregon, Portland, UF, Georgia and Louisville.

“When you look at the number of Power Five teams that we play, this team is definitely prepared to meet that challenge,” McCullum said. “Those two players (Ja’Derryus Eatmon and Shannon Grant) on the front line make a great, great difference. This team was put together with the mindset that we’ve got to be able to compete with the upper echelon and I think this group will give us the most realistic chance.

“Recruiting at the college level is not an exact science. … So we went to the portal intentionally.”

In addition to Eatmon and Grant, the incoming players that he will be counting on are K’Jei Parker, Love Bettis, Alvin Trumblin, Morrell Schramm, Keith Lamar and Rod Coffee. They will join returners Richard Matthews, Chase Barrs, Jordan Chatman, Hantz Louis-Jeune and Dimingus Stevens.

Parker is a 6-foot-1 guard from Lakeland/Winter Haven High School. He was a first-team all Polk County player with the State 7A runner-up last season when he averaged 14.8 points per game and 4.7 rebounds.

As the only high school recruit, McCullum said Parker didn’t take his sight off FAMU after making up his mind.

“He wasn’t sitting around waiting on offers from bigger schools, Power Five conference,” McCullum said. “This is where he wanted to be and that’s really important.”

Bettis is a 6-foot guard from Pensacola, who played last season at North Carolina A&T in the Colonial Athletic Association. He had six games in which he scored 10 points, and before joining the Aggies he helped Coffeyville win a NJCAA Division I title as a freshman.

McCullum refers to Bettis as being “a gym rat.” He hopes that leads to a solid work ethic by the team.

“That’s going to set the tone in terms of his work ethic and his love for the game,” McCullum said.

Trumblin is from Sebring, Fla. He is a 6-foot-7 forward, who transferred from Stetson where he averaged 3.6 points per game with two rebounds. His career best was a 22-point performance against Florida Gulf Coast Community College last season.

“I’m really, really excited about him,” McCullum said. “He is an explosive frontline athlete. A very, very, good one-on-one player. He really attacks the basket.”

Schramm is a Chattanooga, Tenn., native who will be leaving his home state for the first time to play college ball. He comes from Chattanooga State College. He has proven his ability to score, with 20-plus points in two games and 10 points in eight games last season. As a freshman he scored 10 or more points in 13 games. His career high is 26 points.

The move to FAMU means Lamar, a 6-foot-6 forward from Stockbridge, Ga., won’t be far from home. He played at Stetson for a season before transferring to South Georgia State. His strength is on the boards, obvious by his 15 rebounds against Denmark Tech and 10 or more in nine games last season.

Coffee is a 6-foot-5 forward from Painesville, Ohio, who played last season at Pensacola State. He scored 10 or more points in 18 games last season with his best being a high of 20 points. One of his double-doubles was a 14-point, 13 rebounds effort.

“I’m excited about what he will add to our backcourt,” McCollum said. “His size and ability to knock down the three-point shot really strengthens our guard play.”

At 6-foot-10, Grant gives “a physical presence that we haven’t had,” McCullum said of the forward from Sylacauga, Ala. He played on the mid-major level at Mercer last season. His best performance last season was against Samford when he scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds.

Eatmon, a 6-foot-9 forward from Birmingham, Ala., is coming off his best season at Lawson State. He played his first year of college ball at Florida State Jacksonville. He had 11 double-digit games, including one in which he scored 20. He’s also proven to be efficient at the free-throw line.

“This team can line up with anybody in our league now and not have to worry about if we can’t match them in this area or we can’t match them in that area,” McCullum said. 


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