We're seven weeks from the beginning of one of the most anticipated Alabama basketball seasons in recent memory. While the level of expectations differ among the fanbase, the core expectation is that this team will be the first to represent the university in the NCAA Tournament since 2012. Those expectations will create pressure for this team and coaches. Fortunately, the team has the benefit of a talented and experienced group of returning players as well as a top 10 recruiting class. Let's meet that roster, starting with the guards.
Collin Sexton - 6'3 - 190 lbs - Freshman: Collin enters his freshman season at Alabama as a top 10 recruit out of high school. The basketball part for Collin should be easy. He's a fierce competitor, capable of playing on or off the ball, can score in bunches, but is also blessed with the quickness and athleticism that will allow him to be a fantastic defender if he buys in on that end of the floor. The biggest hurdle for Collin this season could prove to be managing the hype and expectations that have followed him to Alabama. Should he make a smooth transition, he's capable of putting together an SEC Freshman of the Year type of season.
Avery Johnson Jr. - 5'11 - 190 lbs - Junior: Avery played in all 34 games last season, and was 6th on the team in minutes per game (19.3). His averages for the season were 6.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg and 1.4 apg. He played a key role in the team's win at South Carolina, scoring 23 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Looking ahead to this season, Avery must improve his shooting (33% FG, 31% 3-pt last season) as well as his assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4 apg/1.1 topg).
Herb Jones - 6'7 - 198 lbs - Freshman: The early buzz is that Herb is going to be a very good player at the University of Alabama, maybe as soon as this season. Mo Williams was recently on the Paul Finebaum show and he mentioned Herb as a player for fans to keep an eye on. Avery Johnson also mentioned Herb Jones in a recent interview with Blake Lovell on the Marching to Madness podcast, comparing him to a young Scottie Pippen. That's high praise.
Tevin Mack - 6'7 - 215 lbs - Junior: Tevin will sit out the 17-18 season after transferring from Texas. Last season as a Longhorn, Tevin played in 15 games. He averaged 14.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg. He reached double figures in 11 of his 15 games, including a couple of 20+ point games. He should be able to provide instant offense for the team when he is eligible in the 2018-19 season. An area to work on in his year off is at the free throw line. He only made 58% of his free throw attempts last season.
Dazon Ingram - 6'5 - 208 lbs - Sophomore: After an injury-shortened true freshman season, Dazon played in all 34 games a season ago, finishing second on the team in minutes played (27.5). He finished the season with averages of 10.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 3.3 apg. Dazon was remarkably efficient as a shooter, knocking down 52% of his field goal attempts (42.9% from 3). His best stretch was in the SEC Tournament, where he averaged 13.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, and only had four turnovers in the three games Bama played. That turnover stat was encouraging because the biggest area of improvement for Dazon is taking care of the basketball. His turnover percentage (the number of turnovers a player commits per 100 possessions) last season was one of the worst among SEC players with a minimum of 40% of minutes played (24.2%).
Ar'Mond Davis - 6'6 - 200 lbs - Senior: Ar'Mond considered transferring after one year in Tuscaloosa, but I believe made the right decision to return. He looked much more comfortable on the floor in the three games played in Canada. In those three games, he averaged 8.6 ppg and 3.6 rpg. Last season he played in 32 of the 34 games, finishing 9th in minutes played (13.8). He finished the season with averages of 6.0 ppg and 1.5 rpg. Two of Ar'Mond's best games came in two of Alabama's better wins last season, a home win vs Vanderbilt (12 pts) in which Ar'Mond helped spark a rally from a 14-point 2nd half deficit, and the road win at South Carolina, where Ar'Mond came off the bench to score 19 pts. An area of improvement for Ar'Mond this season is shooting the ball. He came to Tuscaloosa with the reputation of being a shooter, but the numbers (33% FG, 26% 3-pt) did not bear that out. One way to improve those numbers is better shot selection. It's safe to say Ar'Mond had a quick trigger last season. I respect how hard he plays, but he's got to make better decisions with the ball.
John Petty - 6'5 - 193 lbs - Freshman: Bama fans were treated to an early peek of how good Petty can be at the college level during the team's Canadian trip. In the three games played, John was the best player on the roster, finishing with a 3-game average of 16.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.6 apg and 2.0 spg. If that kind of production continues, expect to see John's name on the conference All-Freshman team at the end of the season. John can do it all on the offensive end of the floor, but he also had a reputation in high school of playing hard on the defensive end, which doesn't come naturally to many young players. In recent years elite basketball recruits in the state of Alabama had been leaving the state for college. Petty's decision to commit to Alabama over a national power like Kentucky is a clear sign that the perception of hoops in the state at the college level is changing.
Lawson Schaffer - 5'11 - 168 lbs - Junior: The fan favorite, frequently called "Law Dagger" by adoring fans, Schaffer is the walk-on that we all cheer for to knock down a shot in the final moments of a lopsided game. But the reality is Schaffer is a talented basketball player who could be starring at any number of smaller schools, and with a scholarship to boot. You can see his talent when he's on the floor; it's more to do with his height and frame that he didn't receive high-major interest. He's a fantastic shooter, and handles the ball well. With the talent continuing to rise due to the staff's recruiting efforts, there's no guarantee that Lawson's role will significantly change in his final two years in Tuscaloosa, but he will continue to cultivate a fan following few athletes on the campus can match.