As most of you know, Coach Gottfried has decided to close practices to the public this year. I was fortunate to be able to watch Tuesday afternoon's practice, along with about 100 other Tide Pride and Tuscaloosa Tip-Off club members.
Due to the way the practice was set up, and it being early in the goings, it is difficult to tell a whole lot. Most importantly, Ron Steele appeared to be healthy. He shot the ball well and played good defense, and appeared to be running well in drills. His speed and quickness is not so much what makes him a dominant point guard, as it is his decision making and fundamentals. He's extremely strong with the basketball, always keeps his head up, seemingly always makes the right passes, and can score. He looked like the old Ron Steele to me, which is great news.
All of our other returning players looked pretty much the same, in my opinion. Justin Knox appears to have gotten a little stronger, and I believe Alonzo Gee may have actually lost a little bulk making him a tad bit quicker.
JaMycheal Green will see the floor early and often, and I wouldn't be surprised if he works his way into the starting rotation before the season is over. He's not the dominating force that Hendrix was inside from a strength and size standpoint, but he has good footwork, agility, hands, and runs the court well. He did well in shooting drills with his mid range jumper, but it's hard to tell if he will be as effective when being guarded from that range. He's still a little green in certain areas as you would expect from a freshman, but he's way ahead of the curve in my opinion.
Brock is a lot like Hollinger although his skills are much more suited to run the point, however his lack of size will probably prevent him from seeing a lot of action in SEC play. He is quick, and plays with a lot of energy and hustle on both ends of the floor and in drills, I like him.
Andrew Steele has good size for a guard, but he has a long way to go offensively. He was way off on a couple of shots and mishandled the ball a few times. If he can improve his ball handling and shooting, he'll be a good one in due time. He is a force defensively. In the limited scrimmage time, I don't think anyone scored on him. His team came back to tie Ron's team late, and Andrew matched up one on one against Ron and shut him down on the last 2 possessions, forcing a turnover and a blocked shot.
Senario Hillman sat out with a sprained ankle. Coach Gottfried said he probably could have went, but they wanted to give him another day of rest.
If I had to guess on a starting 5 at this point, I would say...1. Ron Steele, 2. Senario Hillman, 3. Alonzo Gee, 4. Justin Knox, 5. Yamene Coleman.
We did a lot of transition work...3 on 2 drills, and running up the court and trying to get a quick, good shot, so maybe we will try to force the tempo a little more this year.
After the practice, Coach Gottfried introduced the players and staff, spoke for a bit, and answered questions. Of note, he said he thinks we have a little bit quicker of a team than we did last year. He said the questions marks are who is going to score consistently from the perimeter, since we lost a good perimeter shooter in Riley. I think Ron and Gee can step up in this regard, and hopefully Hillman. Gee shot well in practice, but he's always been streaky. We'll need him to have more good days than bad.
When asked if we would press more, Coach responded that he gets asked that a lot, and that we will press some but we can't press all the time. He said we will do a lot more of picking up the ball and pressuring the ball at half court than we have. As most of you know, I'm usually one screaming for us to press more due to our athletic ability and depth. That being said, after watching how poorly we communicate at times when we were working on the 2-2-1 press at practice, I can understand why he may be hesitant to do it too often. I believe this is something we need to spend more time on, because if we could get it right, it would be a great weapon.
When asked about the depth of the playing rotation, he responded that it's difficult to play 10 or 11 guys. We have 11 guys on scholarship, but he said by SEC play we will probably settle on a playing rotation of 8 or 9 guys, but 10 and 11 have to be ready in case of injury or foul trouble. I really wish he would rethink this...I believe you can run the floor and play 10 people, and I think we have thd depth to do it.
Coach said he thinks we are a little bit quicker of a team this year. He indicated that we didn't run quite as much as we would like to last year because Richard was our most consistent scorer and we had to run the offense through him, but when you start zipping up and down the court you take Hendrix out of the game, so we will probably get up and down a little bit more this year than we did last year.
He said all the assistant coaches are heavily involved in recruiting, and each one is assigned certain games on the schedule and they are already looking at film and preparing a gameplan. He said there is no coach specifically responsible for defense. During practice, the assistants did very little actual coaching, it was pretty much all Coach Gottfried.
Coach said we should definitely compete for the West this year, and maybe the overall SEC depending upon how things go. He said we must get back into the tournament and advance in the tournament. He mentioned that we don't hang banners for NITs around here, and he said the last year and a half has not been fun for any of us, himself included. He acknowledged that it's his responsibility to put a product on the floor that we can be proud of and excited about it. He said we've got a team of great guys that are all going to graduate, so we should be proud of them, and they are working hard on playing at a level that we can be excited about it again.
I'm pulling for him, obviously. If Ron Steele can stay healthy and play like the Ron Steele of old, I think that will cover up a lot of our deficiencies. He looked good in practice, but it was not a very physical practice with a lot of contact, so it's hard to tell if that will be the case.