March 5, 2012For all of the latest MEAC action, visit http://www.famuathletics.com or sign up for official athletic e-news alerts by clicking here. TALLAHASSEE, Fla.
|Head Coach LeDawn Gibson|
– Before the first basketball was dribbled for the 2011-2012 season, an unfathomable tragedy struck the Lady Rattlers. The untimely demise of one of the nation’s top recruits Shannon Washington, who had signed with the team, shook the core of not only the athletics department, but also the entire university. The resolve of the Lady Rattlers to put their emotions aside to compete at the level they did is a lesson in cohesion and resilience.
The Lady Rattlers put together an impressive 14-2 MEAC record, along with a 14-game winning streak. The two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) losses, one each to Howard and Hampton, were by a combined 10 points.
The MEAC rewarded the Lady Rattlers for their successes during the season by honoring Antonia Bennett as the Player of the Year, Qiana Donald as the Defensive Player of the Year and head coach LeDawn Gibson as the MEAC Women’s Coach of the Year.
Gibson was pleased with the way her team’s effort was recognized by the coaches and sports information directors of the MEAC.
“I’m truly humbled at this point,” said Gibson. “You start a season with one thing in mind, which is to work hard. These accolades are a tribute to the hard work that we put in. We are very excited
about the awards we were honored to receive.”
Gibson led the Lady Rattlers to a 21-7 overall record. Included in that number are impressive wins against UAB, Jacksonville U, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee State and Austin Peay.
The Lady Rattlers led the MEAC in scoring offense, field goal percentage, rebounding offense and assists. They were in the top 10 in the MEAC in virtually every category.
Bennett had a spectacular season for the FAMU. She led the conference in scoring for most of the season, ending the season averaging 18.1 points-per-game, surpassing the 1,500 career points mark late in the season. She also led the conference in defensive rebounds at 6.8 per game.
In the summer of 2011, she was invited to camp as a finalist for Team USA for the Pan Am Games. Several professional basketball contacts have inquired about her throughout the season. Her size and ability to play inside or outside has drawn the attention of basketball consumers across the country. Her demeanor, leadership and scholastic achievements have earned the respect of peers in the conference.
She joins a short but impressive list of Lady Rattlers to achieve the honor of MEAC Player of the Year. Natalie White won the honor in 1995, followed by Cathy Robinson in 1996. In 2003 Kim Watson won the honor and Bennett becomes the fourth Lady Rattler to achieve the honor.
Donald has been the workhorse for the Lady Rattlers for four years. Her award as Defensive Player of the Year is appropriate recognition for an unselfish player dedicated to making her teammates better. She led the conference in offensive rebounds with 5.0 per game. Donald started all 28 games for FAMU this season. Along the way, she scored 313 points, grabbed 249 rebounds and made 22 blocked shots.
Gibson felt Donald’s choice, as Defensive Player of the Year, is a lesson in how a team is constructed.
“I’m very excited that she finally got the recognition she deserved. She has worked very hard for the last four years. She’s not afraid to mix it up inside and do the dirty work and sometimes that’s hard to get noticed; but this is a crowning testament to her hard work,” Gibson said.
The Lady Rattlers finished the season in third place and have a bye in the MEAC Tournament until Thursday. In addition to their success in the conference, there have been several communications with the Women’s NIT evaluating the Lady Rattlers’ interest in a possible bid.
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