The team held it's annual open practice and BBQ for Tide Pride and Tuscaloosa Tip Off club members last night. I'm going to keep this relative short because a)I simply don't have a lot of time right now and b) you really could not hell a whole lot due to the set up.
Most of what I said in the previous report from the scrimmage Saturday also applies to this practice. The format was a lot different, as it was not a true scrimmage. They did a lot of half court 5 on 5 with man to man defense to start, and some full court drills later, with frequent stops for coaching, etc. They did a lot of a "Circle the wagons" type drill, where the 10 players would run in a circle and a coach would call out "red" or "white" and the corresponding team would in-bound the ball while the other team would quickly set up their defense.
Generally speaking, the team's shot selection was much better than Saturday, as the guys on the wings were looking to attack the basket more. I thought Pollard made better decisions. I am really concerned about our inside game. Nick Jacobs is much improved, but I still don't see him putting up 20 ppg in the post. Coach Grant spent a lot of time instructing and correcting Moussa Gueye. While he made a few nice plays, and has a lot of raw physical skills, he just does not have the instincts to make the proper, quick decisions and reactions. Frankly, I fear Coach Grant may be expecting a little more out of Gueye than he is capable of giving us at this point.
Andrew Steele is out with a groin injury but Coach Grant said it's more precautionary measures. Carl Engstrom also did not participate due to a minor injury.
The practice was very well attended with several people walking up to buy tickets that day. The set up was different from prior years. Rather than people getting their bbq and eating during practice, they had tables set up in the lobby area and everyone ate after practice while Coach Grant addressed the crowd. Also, the players spread out and sat among the crowd during dinner. Keon Blackledge sat with our group and he was very courteous and personable. Coach Grant introduced the players by class before dismissing them. He spoke highly of Pollard and how he comes to practice every day looking to learn and get better. He mentioned Andrew Steele as a great senior leader who fits in with his system even though he was already there when Coach Grant arrived. He spoke highly of Jacobs for his work in the offseason.
In the Q&A session Coach Grant said that despite having only 10 scholarship players, we may have to play more to the style of play that he prefers because we don't have someone like JaMychal Green from last year who can be a physical presence down low in half court sets. He said we are young in that we only have one senior, but we are fortunate in that our sophomores got a lot of good experience to build on from last year.
My understanding is the team will have a closed scrimmage Saturday against Memphis before the Exhibition game at home next Tuesday night against Stillman. The season starts next Friday against a very good South Dakota State team.