While the last week has been alarming with the news of a college basketball recruiting scandal that reared its ugly head in Tuscaloosa, the college basketball season is still expected to tip off in six weeks. That means the show must go on with my roster preview.
DJC did a great job in the previous post in breaking down what we know so far about the FBI investigation into the Adidas/recruiting violations. If you haven't read it yet, I implore you to do so. It's particularly important in light of the resignation of former Alabama staffer, Kobie Baker.
The team held its first practice yesterday, and Collin Sexton - who is presumably the player mentioned in the Kobie Baker episode - did practice. What his status will be going forward isn't set in stone yet, but it is encouraging that none of the evidence presented so far shows that Collin or his family accepted any improper benefits.
For what it's worth: this weekend has been huge from a basketball recruiting standpoint. Trendon Watford (2019/5-star), Kira Lewis (2019/4-star), Robert Woodard (2018/4-star), Austin Crowley (2019/4-star) and Javian Fleming (2018/3-star) are all on campus today.
Okay, let's get to the roster preview.
Donta Hall - 6'9 - 232 lbs - Junior: Donta played in all 34 games last season, finishing 5th in minutes per game (19.7). His averages for the season were 6.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 1.4 bpg. His field goal percentage was superb (65.8%), but he only attempted 3.5 shots per game. Down the stretch, Donta began to show signs of development on the offensive end so it will be interesting to see if he has a bigger role on offense this season. I wrote a more extensive preview about Donta at the Southeast Hoops website, which you can read here.
Riley Norris - 6'7 - 210 lbs - Senior: It's hard to believe that Riley is entering his senior season. He's been a reliable player from the outset, and I don't expect that to change this season. As a senior he will be expected to provide leadership to this team. Riley played in all 34 games last season, finishing 3rd in minutes per game (27.3). His averages for the season were 9.0 ppg and 3.8 rpg. Riley's role will adjust slightly with the new faces on campus, but one area of improvement could be 3-pt efficiency. Riley only made 33% of his 3-pt attempts last season after making 37.5% as a sophomore. With guards that can get him the ball in the right spots, he needs to be a shooting threat for this team.
Alex Reese - 6'9 - 250 lbs - Freshman: Alex is a top 100 recruit from Pelham, AL. Somewhat overshadowed by other members of this class, he's nonetheless an important addition to the program. He was the 2nd ranked player in the state behind John Petty, insuring that Alabama signed the top players in the state for that class. A skilled player, the biggest question for Alex entering the season is if he's physically ready to compete at this level yet. I think he certainly can, but he may need some time to develop. Fortunately he'll have that opportunity because Bama has depth at the forward position.
Daniel Giddens - 6'11 - 247 lbs - Sophomore: A former top 50 recruit from Mableton, GA, Daniel spent his freshman season at Ohio State before electing to transfer closer to home. He sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules. With Bola Olaniyan moving on, this team will need a physical presence inside. The hope is that Daniel can fill that void. Daniel's freshman averages at Ohio State were 3.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 1.5 bpg.
Braxton Key - 6'8 - 225 lbs - Sophomore: The top 10 recruiting class was big, but it was the decision by Braxton to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to Tuscaloosa for another season that really set the expectations for this Alabama team this season. Braxton was an All-Freshman selection last season. He played in all 34 games, leading the team in minutes per game (29.8). His averages for the season were 12.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 2.5 apg. Biggest area of improvement for Braxton is protecting the basketball. He averaged 3.1 turnovers per game last season, and an awful turnover rate (percentage of turnovers per 100 possessions) of 24.4%. But I think I speak for all Bama fans when I say that I'm very happy he's back.
Galin Smith - 6'9 - 235 lbs - Freshman: Galin was the 3rd ranked recruit from the state of Mississippi in the 2017 class. He's only been playing basketball for 3-4 years so he's a little raw, but he's an impressive looking dude from a physical standpoint. I'm guessing he'll need some time to develop a skill set at the college level, but he could earn minutes as a freshman if the older post players struggle to establish a physical presence in the paint.
Landon Fuller - 6'8 - 222 lbs - Sophomore: Landon made the team as a walk-on after going through tryouts. Played in three games last season, but did not compile any stats. He likely won't appear in any games unless Alabama has a sizable lead, but hope we see a game in which the bench goes crazy when Landon makes his first basket in an Alabama uniform.