Alabama State thoughts, that is. Or the Alabama State game, anyway.
As noted by Jet, neither Steele nor Davidson played. Steele's absence puzzles me, because every person I know who is somewhat close to the program says that the earlier layoff made his condition worse. I am not a doctor, I've never played one on tv, and I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I suspect Steele will not be back to 100% at any time during the present season. If that happens, I sure hope it does not impact his professional prospects. A healthy Steele is a young man who probably should skip his senior season for the NBA goldmine. Let's hope everything works out best for him.
The game was such a joy to watch, I'd better hit the few negatives I think I noticed before moving on.
Everyone knows I am the founding member of the Brandon Hollinger fan club, but I believe Torrence is the point guard of the future. The mechanics on Torrence's set shot worry me, but he is tall, strong, and can both pass and shoot layups equally well with either hand. Unfortunately, he is not in good enough condition to play 30 minutes per game and he has not yet developed the feel he needs for when to pass and when to drive. Once he overcomes those two problems, I believe he will be an excellent point guard for us. But as of last night, he was not quite ready to assume Steele's role.
Not to pick on Torrence, but like half the team he continues to try to play defense with his hands. I think the problem these kids have is that they were so much better physically than the kids they played against in high school that they never really had to practice the fundamentals in order to excel. Please don't think I am negative on Torrence. He has more than overcome my former reservations about him and I continue to believe he is our long-term solution at the point once Steele lives. He just is not quite where Hollinger was fundamentally or condition-wise at this time last year. (Then again, Otis Hughely might be the most demanding high school coach in Alabama so that is not surprising. I wish we could sign more kids from his program.)
The other negative was not a surprise. Many of us had hoped Cloyd would pressure Riley for playing time as our outside threat. He does have wonderful tools, but Cloyd simply is not ready to be counted on yet. It's not that Cloyd is not good. It's just that some of us had been lead to believe that he might make an immediate impact. He still might do that before the season is over, but I just do not think he is ready yet.
Now to the good. First, Riley. Riley's defense is good and improving. That's good because we need him to be better than he is right now. He's also found his shot and he has some nice moves toward the basket. Riley is permanently entrenched in that wing spot. Assuming a healthy Steele, Riley fills the one gap that existed on last year's team. He appears to be everything we were expecting.
My Man Hollinger played pretty well at the point. Neither he nor Torrence committed a turnover, but they needed some help from their teammates who saved a couple of miscues by each of them. Hollinger shot a little better last night, but the bread and butter of the offense for about a ten minute stretch was a nifty move where Hollinger moved toward the basket then passed the ball around his defender to Hendrix who was in position to move straight to the hoop for a lay in. Hollinger was more than passable at the point last night.
Hendrix had a monster game and did not commit the silly fouls that have gotten him into trouble in other games. Jemison is more than just a physical specimen. He plays sound defense and rebounded well. Coleman did not have as much competition last night as he has in other games, but he played well. He scored some needed points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Coleman is progressing well. If he improves like Davis and Davidson did between his first and second years of playing, we will not miss Davidson too much next year.
Gee continues to be a joy to watch, but I cringe every time I see him dribble in traffic. (Okay, pretty much the same can be said for half the team. But given the magnitude of Gee's strengths his weakness seems pretty spectacular.) That's not much of a down side, and there's not another player anywhere I'd swap Gee for. Kudos to CMG and the staff for landing that prodigy.
Everybody but TI's DJCEsq was surprised by Justin Tubbs' coming out party last night. DJC told me before the game he was hoping we'd see more of Tubbs because "he's looked really good every time he's playd." Not only did Tubbs light it up from outside, but he played defense with his feet the entire time he was on the court and had quicker hands than Hollinger. At one point on defense he reminded me of a thin, althetic Anthony Murray with a good haircut. Let's hope last night's performance will prove to be the rule, not the exception.
Last night was much more than an easy win against a less than good opponent. We played much better last night than we did against this same team in Montgomery two years ago. Not only did the puppies on the bench get to play, but most of them played well and played well together. I think it is important that CMG become comfortable playing these younger kids, especially if Steele's problems linger. It also would be very nice to have lots of bodies to throw at people in a press, which they played pretty well last night for several possessions.
See you all Saturday in Mobile!