Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How Far Can The Tide Go This Year

Now that Verice Cloyd has cleared the NCAA mine fields and been accepted as a student, the big question on most Bama Basketball fans is, "Just how good will they be this year?" Only time will tell, but almost all informed fans expect this to be one of the best and most talented teams ever to defend the Coleman Coliseum court; and with good reason.

The first step to assessing this year's team is to evaluate the known quantities. Ronald Steele probably is the most reliable "known" quantity in the SEC, if not the nation. If Steele is not the best point guard in the country, then he is among the elite few at that positions. To paraphrase former Houston Oilers coach O.A. ("Bum") Phillips, "Steele might not be in a class by himself, but it don't take long to call the roll."

The next well known factor in this equation almost certainly must be Jamareo Davidson. JD has continued to improve during each of his three years on campus. He is reputed to have gained another 15-20 pounds of muscle (which he very much needed if he is to accomplish his goal of playing at the next level). If JD has exhibited a "consistent" weakness, then it has been in the inconsistent level of his play. This writer tends to believe that JD does not stop trying. Instead, he seems to lose his concentration for brief periods of time during several games each year. If he can maintain a consistent level of concentration throughout the season, Davidson has the tools, experience and effort to play with virtually anyone in the country. Bama has not enjoyed the luxury of so talented and experienced a center during the Gottfried era. He is a winner and I wouldn't swap him.

It is difficult to pick between Richard Hendrix (last season's "must have" recruit) and Alonzo Gee (whose talent and enthusiasm surprised everyone but alcrtide last year) as the third most indispensable piece of the 2006-07 puzzle. If Hendrix improves between his first and second year along the same cycle exhibited by Davis and Davidson (Bama's other two "true" big men who have enjoyed Coach Tom Asbury's leadership), then he could be on his way to becoming almost unstoppable. Gee is reputed to have regained his three point shot (which is reported to have suffered last year as a result of the S & C program). If that is true, he will present a second dual threat of the power variety to complement Steele's dual threat of the speed variety. Both are quick to the basket and difficult to stop in close. Hendrix probably was the better defender last year, but by eliminating his freshman defensive mistakes from last year Gee could become a defensive star.

The last known category from last year's team is Brandon Hollinger, this writer's favorite player from last year's team. Almost no Bama fan expected Hollinger to play consistently, much less start, when last season commenced. Even without last year's attrition, Hollinger almost certainly would have forced his way into the starting lineup. He plays Pettway style, full speed all the time and he has a heart the size of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Hollinger loves to play defense, was Bama's most consistent three-point shooter during much of last season, and has ice water in his veins. With the exception of Ronald Steele, when was the last time we all were glad to see a true freshman step to the free throw line with the game in doubt and time running out? Unfortunately, Hollinger's published height of 5'11" is "generous." He can dunk the ball, but he still is a bit too short to lock down a 6'4" shooting guard.

The good news for Bama is that Hollinger probably won't have to play the two guard all the time. Verice Cloyd will be more than capable at that position. It also sounds like Mykal Riley, the Texas juco player Coach Gottfried (Coach Pearson?) found when it became apparent that Ray George did not qualify academically (again) is a true swing player who can play the shooting forward or the shooting guard.

If either Riley or Cloyd turns out to be as good as advertised, then Bama should be loaded. That would allow Davidson and Yamene Coleman (who reportedly is even larger than Davidson and looking very good in unofficial workouts) to share time at the Center position. Hendrix also might play some there because he needs to be close to the basket, but the other two are more natural centers. Coleman and Gee can spell Hendrix at the strong forward position.

I would expect Gee to start at the small forward position, backed up first by Riley.

Hollinger should start at the two guard position. He has demonstrated his value to the team and CMG should force other players to beat Hollinger out of his position. They will find Brandon a formidable opponent and the competition will only make all the players better. But if Vernice Cloyd is as good as the reports on him indicate, then he will enjoy substantial playing time before SEC play commences. I understand both Cloyd and Hollinger can spell Steele if need be.

That is eight, solid, regular players. That is two more than we saw last year and two more than Bama ever has had that I can recall. (The two deepest teams I recall us ever having brought either Ricky Brown or Keith Askins off the bench without an appreciable diminution in the talent level.) Even if we assume that Ray George never will make the squad (and I'm not holding my breath), that would give Bama quality starters and depth at every position. And that assumes that the remaining two signees are red-shirted and the three players left from last year's squad never make significant contributions.

Sure, lots of things could happen. Injuries can devastate any team. The players are college kids whose focus and work ethic could disappear over night (although at does not seem likely given the solid, upper-class leadership on this team). Barring injuries, this appears to be the season when Coach Gottfried should start showing just how valuable he is. He and his staff did excellent work last year after Davis' injury in the Ole Miss game. If they can keep that focus, the sky is the limit.

I will go out on a limb and say that this team has a very good chance to make the Final Four. Anything can happen in the tournament. We've seen that happen plenty of times before. But this team should not struggle to qualify for the Big Dance and if they don't win at least two games in the NCAA Tournament (no matter where they are seeded), then I will be disappointed.

Get in line. Fill out your order forms. Buy your tickets now. This promises to be even more fun that last season was, and we all remember how much fun that was (after the Ole Miss game). I will see you in Coleman Coliseum.

P.S. Does anyone have a spare bed? I promised Mrs. Alias I would not make all those late-night, round trips from Mobile this year so I need some place to spend the night before driving back on Thursday mornings. What's football?

Roll Tide, my brothers! Roll Tide!!!!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Kennedy Winston regrets leaving early for the draft

"Knowing what I know now, I'd rather have stayed and played my last year," Kennedy said. "When you're out here, you're done with school. You can't go back. And then you realize, college is your best time. I just didn't realize it."

Winston, who turns 22 at the end of the month, never had to worry about impressing a basketball coach before. The 2002 Mr. Basketball for the state of Alabama averaged 33.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.4 steals as a senior at Prichard's Blount High.

Considered one of the top recruits in the nation, Winston signed first with California, then received a release to stay closer to home, and signed with Alabama.

His career numbers for the Tide were solid. After missing his freshman year with a knee injury, Winston averaged 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game during the next two years. The scouting report indicated he was made for an NBA shooting guard. And when Winston declared for the draft after his junior season, he was convinced it was the start of a long, successful NBA career.

"My whole life changed on that one night (of the NBA draft)," Winston said. "It has been very, very tough - the toughest period of my life."

The rest of the article can be read here:
Winston regrets leaving early

Don't cry for Winston as he pulled in 130K last year in Spain. He made a mistake leaving early, but in the end he's still doing ok. I wish him the best of luck in his pursuit of a NBA career.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Paradise Jam bracket set

To be honest I'd be disappointed if we didn't win the tournament. Iowa in the 2nd round and probably a depleted Villanova team in the finals.

The strong eight-team field will begin game competition on November 17th with consecutive-day action culminating in the championship round on Nov. 20. The 2006 Paradise Jam will tip off with the University of Alabama playing Middle Tennessee State at 2pm on the 17th. The day’s other match ups include Toledo and Iowa at 4:30 pm, Xavier and Virginia Commonwealth at 7pm and College of Charleston battling Villanova at 9:30pm. All game times are Atlantic Standard Time (one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time). Two games will be played daily on November 18th (losing teams from the 17th) and 19th (winning teams from the 17th) at 7:00pm and 9:30pm. The final day of competition on November 20 will be structured similarly to the first day, with the game times set for 2pm, 4:30pm, 7pm and the championship game at 9:30pm. All games will be played at the state-of-the-art University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.
The rest of the article can be read here:
Best ever field at Paradise Jam

I might have to skip the Auburn game for this tournament... The Virgin Islands in November sounds like a nice mini-vacation.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Chuck Davis denied another year

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The NCAA has denied Alabama's petition to grant forward Chuck Davis another year of eligibility, coach Mark Gottfried said.

Gottfried said he received a letter from the NCAA Monday that officially ended the college career for Davis, who missed most of his senior season with a torn knee ligament.

He did play in 13 of the Crimson Tide's 29 games last season, well above the NCAA's rule allowing a hardship year only for players who participated in less than 20 percent of their team's games not counting the NCAA tournament.

No 5th year for Chuck

Expected, but nonetheless sad. The rule should be changed to 50% of the team's games IMO. Way to reward the student athlete.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rumor and news about Verice Cloyd...

... first the news from July 6th:

The NCAA has declared the Mississippi prep school attended by Alabama signee Verice Cloyd "acceptable" for initial academic eligibility.

Now, Cloyd is waiting to see if the university will admit him.

Cloyd eligible

Now the rumor (credit to tiderinsider.com members 'PA Finest' and 'DLS'):
A Cloyd sighting on campus
That gives us our needed 2 guard. If he's as good as people say he is, he's the missing piece to a possible Final Four run this season.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

James Holland Hired as Tide Basketball Assistant

TUSCALOOSA – James Holland, who won an NAIA national championship as a player at the University of South Carolina Spartanburg and has won championships in three different conferences as a coach, has been hired as an assistant basketball coach on Mark Gottfried’s staff at the University of Alabama.

“I am very excited about James Holland joining our staff,” said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. “He has a great basketball mind and is a tremendous recruiter as well. He will be involved in every aspect of the program including on the floor coaching, scouting of opponents and most certainly recruiting. He comes highly recommended, having been around great coaches and has recruiting ties all around the country but especially the southeast. He also has worked as an NBA scout for the Washington Wizards and our players will benefit greatly from that experience. He knows the John Wooden system and his familiarity with our terminology will allow him to connect immediately with our coaches and players. I also have been impressed over the years with his character and his tireless work ethic.”

Holland replaces Eugene Harris on the Alabama staff.

The rest of the story can be read here

To be honest I have no idea what he brings to the table. I guess we'll know in a year or 2.