Rattlers look to big men to be more competitive

Ja’Derryus Eatmon (left) and Shannon Grant are the two big men that the Rattlers added to their roster this season.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Coach Robert McCullum is entering his seventh season with the FAMU men’s basketball team.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Robert McCullum has never been one to operate in secrecy when it comes to running the men’s basketball program at FAMU.

So he didn’t have a problem telling all about additions and returning players in a recent meeting with reporters at Lawson Center. McCullum didn’t hide the fact that he’s added size to make the Rattlers more competitive.

 Not just in the SWAC, where they are predicted to finish 11th, but in non-conference matchups against power five programs. The big newcomers are Shannon Grant (6-foot-10) and Ja’Derryus Eatmon (6-foot-9). 

Ironically, both forwards visited FAMU on the same recruiting weekend. Grant came through the NCAA transfer portal and Eatmon came from Lawson State Community College in Alabama.

“This really sets the tone for our team from a chemistry standpoint,” McCullum said. “The size that they have gives us a lot more flexibility, a lot more depth (and) a lot more potent inside.”

McCullum attributed some of the 7-22 season that the Rattlers had last year to not being able to be more aggressive inside. Size has made a difference for the top teams in the SWAC, something that Grant welcomes.

“That’s something that can play into our strengths,” he said. “JD (Eatmon) and I are bigger guys so being able to play physical when the referee lets us play I feel that is something that will be to our advantage.”

The issue of size is something that McCullum noticed before FAMU left the MEAC to join the SWAC in 2021. With the addition of Eatmon and Grant, McCullum said, the Rattlers will be able to “legitimately compete for a conference championship.”

 “We will do some of the things we have done because we have players to actually execute those things better,” McCullum said. “We have also added some new things offensively to better take advantage of our size.”

In addition to Grant, the Rattlers used the portal to get Love Bettis from North Carolina A&T, and Alvin Tumblin from Stetson.

FAMU also returns Jordan Chapman, Hans Louis-Jeune, Chase Barrs, and Dimingus Stevens.

Beginning on Nov. 7 when the Rattlers open against Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., they will play a top-heavy schedule through December. The biggest of those games against power five programs will take place on Nov. 20 against the University of Oregon.

The matchup will be played at Lawson Center as part of the SWAC-PAC-12 Alliance. McCullum, whose coaching resume includes a stop at the University of Oregon, said at least 15 students from Oregon are expected to make the trip.

One obvious concern about the SWAC-PAC-12 games is whether they will continue after conference realignment shrink the PAC-12. McCullum said even if the conference goes away, there will be future matchups against teams currently in the conference.

“Relationships chumps conference alignment,” McCullum said. “That’s how a number of those games will continue to be played.”

In addition to the PAC-12, the other power five teams FAMU will play represent the Big 10, Big 12 and SEC.

With the personnel additions, will come set-play changes that McCullum said should make for a much better season than the Rattlers had last year. Admittedly, McCullum is just as ager as his players to get the season underway.

“I tell our guys the first day of practice if we don’t come down here (to the court) enthusiastic then it’s time for me to do something else,” he said. “But I could not be more excited about the group of players who have chosen to come to FAMU.”

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