Tallahassee, FL - The past two weeks in practice has been tougher than the FAMU women anticipated.
It's not the conditioning. It's not the drills. It has nothing to do with the Lady Rattlers bringing in nine new players.
There was supposed be a tenth. A junior college star. But she was tragically killed at the beginning of the academic year.
"It's kind of hard losing her and then coming in as a team trying to play without her," said Kimberly Sparkman, a sophomore guard who also transferred to FAMU this season from a JUCO.
While fallen teammate Shannon Washington remains on their minds, they know number 24 will be there with them this season.
"It's been better. We play through it," Sparkman said. "We try to play like she's not gone and play like she's still here."
"It's gonna stay in our heart. We're gonna dedicate our season to her. So it's very important," Head Coach LeDawn Gibson said.
Before Friday night's exhibition at the Al Lawson Center, Washington's mother will speak to honor the future Rattler.
"We lost a lot. And the young ladies realize how much we lost," Gibson said. "But with all that being said, the other ones are just gonna pick up the pieces and step right in. I'm just looking more for the younger players to step in and be an immediate impact."