Yesterday evening, as a Tide Pride member I had the privilege to attend practice court side while enjoying average-at-best BBQ from Full Moon. The first 2/3rds or so of practice consisted 5 minute intense/full court scrimmages followed by a brief water break, rinse and repeat. Most of the remaining time was also spent in a scrimmage format, but Coach Grant would stop after nearly every play to draw up the next play for them to run, forcing them to focus some on the half-court game. They ended by running some full court 3 man weave drills and suicides.
If you read my manifesto after Saturday's scrimmage, it was much of the same, a lot more defensive intensity than scoring. Overall, the team looked more crisp and seemed to make fewer mistakes than on Saturday. The freshmen impressed me once again. Lacey showed he can score, shoot, and handle the rock. Retin Obasohan looked even better handling the ball, and is a great athlete. No knock on Eblen, who has greatly improved his game in all areas except for scoring, but I think Obasohan will be the #2 PG by SEC play at the latest.
Engstrom seemed to play more minutes than anybody else on the court. I was amazed at how little he came out. For a guy his size, he runs the floor well and is in excellent condition. His footwork is improving, and he even finished a couple of layups around the basket, although he still missed way too many easy shots from close range. We are going to need around 10 quality minutes or so per game from him.
I was hoping for more out of Nick Jacobs. Don't get me wrong, he is much better than the average true freshman, but it is difficult for a post player to come in as a true freshman and be very effective. He hustles on both ends and plays hard, and he has good size and strength, so I have no doubt he will develop into a good player for us. Unfortunately, we need him NOW, and his footwork is not quite there yet. He got caught out of position a few times resulting in fouls, and he didn't really show any moves or scoring ability in the post on offense. I suspect we will use smaller line ups and press a lot, especially early in the season. Which, given our athletes in the back court and the skill sets of our main front court guys, that may not be a bad thing.
One thing that has really impressed me in both of the practices I have seen is how dedicated this group of players are. Even during breaks, they aren't goofing off or lounging, they are talking to one another, asking questions, trying to get better. The freshman seem eager to learn from the veterans, and the veterans seem to be adapting to and helping their teammates with ease.
I have heard some people voice concern over Tony Mitchell's "attitude." While he does seem somewhat disconnected from others at times, I believe this is more just a matter of her personality. He doesn't run his suicides at a full sprint, but I do not seem him loafing while the ball is in play. I was not a big fan of his bright orange shoes, but you can't argue with the results he puts up. Bottom line, he seems to get along well with his teammates and is obviously a great player, so I'm fine with the other stuff, for now. One thing that did bother me a little was that some guys were allowed to play with their shirts not tucked in and with rubber bands on their wrists. I know that's minor and nit picky, but as a high school basketball official that's one of the first things I notice.
JaMychal Green proved why he is preseason all SEC. I think playing with the US National Team has really helped him out. His ball handling and conditioning seem to be much improved, which is important given the minutes we will need to get out of him. The key to success will be keeping him out of foul trouble, and I think he is improving in that area.
I went to this event last year, and it seemed like Coach showed a lot more this year than last, likely because the team is much better at this point than we were last year. It seemed like the scrimmage portion lasted a lot longer. Also, the crowd was probably twice as big, I would guess there were over 1,000 Tide Pride and Tuscaloosa tip off club members in attendance.
Coach Grant spent a few minutes after the practice talking to the crowd and asking questions. He said we are excited about the expectations and are working hard to live up to them. He would like to have an 8-10 man rotation by SEC play. When asked about our outside shooting he said, "I say my prayers every night," then went on to say that he believes as we learn the system and what we are hoping to accomplish we will get better shots and hopefully the outside shooting will improve. He praised Jamychal's game and said that we will work our offense through him, an inside-out approach, and guys will learn how to use his skills to get better shots for themselves. He explained the new block/charge rule, as NCAA has now adopted the NBA rule and there is a semi-circle underneath basket, inside which a defender cannot take a charge. He also explained the new SEC standings format, that we will still play the former west teams twice this year, but there will only be one division. The top 4 teams in the SEC will get byes in the first round of the SEC tournament. He mentioned that some people believe if this were in place last year, we would have been 2nd in the SEC and got an NCAA tournament bid. He added that he is not sure if he buys that argument though. They are not sure how the schedule will work next year with Texas A&M and possibly Missouri coming into the conference. Moussa Gueye's rehab is right on schedule, he's walking without crutches and doing some work on the treadmill. He still has a long way to go and there is no way to predict what will happen in the months ahead.
This has nothing to do with basketball and I know nobody cares, but allow me to vent anyway. The Alabama Department of Transportation needs to give it a rest on all the damned construction around my hometown of Birmingham. It's impossible to get in or out of this city on any of the interstates right now. I used to be able to make it to Ttown in 45 minutes. It took me an hour to get down there, and OVER AN HOUR AND A HALF to get back, thanks to the repaving being done on I-59 West of town. It would have taken even longer had I not got tired of sitting still and taken Jaybird Rd through the hood. It's bad enough they had it down to 1 lane, then shut that one lane down for periods at a time for no apparent reason. There has got to be a better way, or at the very least, let's not work on I59 West of bham, I 20 east, and I 65 both north and south, ALL AT THE SAME DAMNED TIME!