With practice officially beginning on Friday, the 16-17 season will be here soon. In the offseason, Avery Johnson and his staff put in major work in order to add more talent and depth to the program. The result: there is a full compliment (13) of scholarship players on hand. I honestly don't remember the last time the program had a full roster. The increased depth, talent and versatility of this roster, along with a successful first season under Coach Johnson, has brought the usual increase in expectations among the fanbase. How quickly a roster with an influx of new players can gel will go a long way towards determining if the increased expectations can be justified. I'm cautiously optimistic that this Alabama team can be a sleeper in the SEC this season. Let's take a look at the roster, beginning with the guards.
Dazon Ingram - 6'5 - 205 lbs - RS Freshman - No doubt that Dazon is looking forward to his second season in Tuscaloosa after only playing in seven games before a broken foot sidelined him for the remainder of the 15-16 season. At the time of his injury, Dazon's college career was off to a promising start with averages of 7.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg (led the team), 3.3 apg (though he also averaged 3.4 turnovers per game), and 1.1 spg. Dazon can play multiple spots on the floor, but seems most effective at the point, where he likely will remain this season. He may be, pound for pound, the best pro prospect on this team. He's long, athletic, physical. He can do a little bit of everything: defend, run an offense, rebound, finish and create plays for others in transition. If he can continue to develop on the offensive end, Dazon can be one of the best point guards in the SEC this season.
Corban Collins - 6'3 - 190 lbs - Graduate Transfer - One of two graduate transfers that are eligible to play immediately, Corban joins the Alabama program after spending the previous two seasons at Morehead State. He began his career at LSU, sat out a year after transferring to Morehead, and also spent a summer participating in the Athletes in Action summer tour in 2015. As a result, Corban will bring a wealth of experience to the team. Avery has raved about Corban almost from the moment he arrived. Corban will likely start at the 2, but he can play the 1 if necessary. Last season at Morehead, Corban was a 2nd Team All-OVC selection, and was also the second best 3 point shooter in the OVC (42.5%) as he led his team in scoring at 11.0 ppg. While he may not be the athlete Retin was, like Retin, Corban does bring a very physical presence to the guard position. He and Dazon should make quite a potent 1-2 defensive punch in the backcourt. And good luck stopping him if he decides to put his head down and drive to the basket; he's built like a tank.
Nick King - 6'7 - 230 lbs - Junior - Can Nick King be an impact player for this team? A four-star recruit out of high school, King had an up-and-down career at his previous stop in Memphis. The hope is the year he sat out after transferring will prove to be beneficial. Like many players on this roster, King is a versatile player who can play the 2, the 3, and can even play the 4 in small line-ups. His shooting numbers must improve from his days at Memphis. In two seasons there he shot 44% from the field, 27% from 3 and 57% from the free throw line. This team needs more from him on the offensive end.
Avery Johnson Jr. - 5'11 - 187 lbs - Sophomore - After sitting out last season following his transfer from Texas A&M, Avery Jr. will be eligible to play this season. He will likely compete for minutes at the point guard spot. He was a good high school player, more of a traditional point guard than many of the score-first point guards in today's game, but it's unclear at this point (because we haven't seen him play much at the college level) how much he brings to the table.
Ar'Mond Davis - 6'6 - 190 lbs - Junior - Davis, a top 10 nationally rated Juco recruit, averaged 17.1 ppg and 6.8 rpg in his final season at the College of Southern Idaho. Like others on this team, Ar'Mond is capable of playing multiple spots on the floor. He comes to Alabama with the reputation of being a shooter. He was a 38% 3-point shooter last season at Southern Idaho, and Avery has joked that Ar'Mond considers every shot a good shot. I suspect we will see Ar'Mond take a combination of shots that will make you slump in your seat, and some that will get you out of your seat. Dazon and Corban appear to be the starters in the backcourt, but Ar'Mond's ability to shoot will likely give him plenty of opportunities for minutes.
Brandon Austin - 6'5 - 197 lbs - Sophomore - Here's what I liked about BA last season: he was patient. He averaged under ten minutes a game, but he seemed to take it in stride. And to Avery's credit, he kept BA involved by playing him in 30 of the 33 games last season. There will be minutes to be claimed at the 2 and 3 this season. Brandon can play either so he will have opportunities to earn minutes. In order to do that, Brandon will need to improve his shooting averages (30% FG, 20% 3pt) from a season ago.
Lawson Schaffer - 5'11 - 160 lbs - Sophomore - Lawson played in 16 games last season as a "preferred walk-on". Additional minutes may be hard to come by with the influx of new talent, but Lawson remains a true favorite not only of the fans, but his teammates as well. Here's hoping he will get more chances to see the court this season.