Tuesday afternoon I attended the annual open practice and BBQ for Tide Pride and Tuscaloosa Tip Off Club members. It's hard to tell a lot from a few minutes of scrimmaging and one limited practice, but here are a few observations. As usual, I tried to focus a bit more on the new guys.
-Dazon Ingram did not practice as he was sick with a stomach virus.
-Coach Pelphrey had his arm in a sling.
-Donta Hall seems to be continuing his late season development from last year. He ran the floor well and his rebounding instincts appeared improved. In fact, the team as a whole spent a lot of time working on rebounding, with Coach Avery intentionally missing some shots while everyone crashed the boards.
-They had an 18 second shot clock during scrimmage drills.
-They spent time doing skeleton drills on offense, working on both transition and half court sets, and of course the scrimmages.
-Everyone on this team has the ability to be a great defender. I think we will be improved as a defensive team.
-We have a lot more depth in the front court than we did a year ago. I've already mentioned Hall and we know what we are getting with Jimmy, but Nick King can also play a small 4, and he has a pretty short to mid range shot. Bola has great instincts and is very active and likes to play down low. It's not surprising he led SIU in rebounds, but it will be interesting to see if it translates to this level, as he is a bit undersized. Daniel Giddens will have to sit out this year, but he can also play in the post.
-Ar'mond Davis will take over the Art Edwards perimeter specialist role, but I believe he may be a bit more athletic and versatile than Art was, if not quite as consistently accurate.
-Braxton Key is athletic and can play several spots. He will be a good defender and has the athleticism to score, but he had a few more turnovers than I would have liked, needs to work on his hands. He was also wearing a face mask, so I don't know if that's his thing or he's had some kind of injury.
-Avery Jr appears to have added some muscle and I think he can give us some minutes at PG. Corban Collins also looks like a solid team leader who can give us some minutes.
-We seemed to run a lot of plays designed to get open looks from the corner.
-Coach said with more depth he hopes to run more, and he stressed the importance of improving rebounding. He said we were 320th or something in rebounding last year and missed the tournament by 2 games, he viewed that as being the difference. He also talked about the importance of the crowds in recruiting and building the program, and begged everyone to come out to the Tide Tipoff event next Friday. He also talked about how great the atmosphere was for the mid-day game at Dayton last year and hopes we can match it when they come down for the ESPN game.
- My overall take away is we could potentially go 12 deep, which means foul trouble won't be as crippling as it was last year, but we are going to really miss Retin. We need someone to step up and be that go-to scorer who can create his own shot.
The event was well attended considering what it is, I would guess around 800 or so people were there.