Tide Foes Should Know About Steele

Putting together a basketball scouting report, how much would be devoted to a guy scoring 3.8 points per game, pulling down 1.7 rebounds per game: A man who has played in only six games for a total of only 73 minutes this season?

A team preparing to play Alabama would do well to devote more than cursory time to Andrew Steele.

The next team preparing for the Crimson Tide is LSU. Bama will host the Bengal Tigers at 7 p.m. CST Saturday in Coleman Coliseum. Steele is one of the reasons the Crimson Tide has surged to a 12-7 record, including a Southeastern Conference-leading 4-1 league mark.

LSU comes into Tuscaloosa with a 10-10 overall mark, including a 2-3 SEC record. FoxSports South will televise the game.

Steele, brother of former Alabama star Ron Steele, has become part of a three-man corps of off-the-bench players for Alabama. He was saddled with injuries, missing almost all of last year with an ankle injury and the first two-thirds of this year with knee pain. He has been in the lineup for six games now, and Bama has won five of them, including four SEC games and two road games.

The third-year sophomore is modest. Asked about the coincidence of Bama improving from 7-6 to 12-7 with Steele in the lineup, he smiled and said, "I'd like to think that I'm helping."

One statistic kept by Alabama by plus-minus is the score of the game when each player is on the court. Steele is the only Tide player who has been playing when the opponent failed to outscore Bama in that time. Steele's explanation: "Other guys have a lot more minutes."

The truth is that Steele is a very fine defensive player. Alabama is one of the nation's top defensive teams and doesn't lose anything on that end of the court when Steele is in the game.

With Steele, it isn't about statistics. The 6-4, 230-pound wing player from Birmingham John Carroll has played in six games, averaging 12.2 minutes per game. He averages 3.8 points and 1.7 rebounds.

"Andrew has done a good job," said Alabama Coach Anthony Grant. "His injury history is well documented. He knows his role, like everyone else's, is to rebound and play good defense and protect the ball.

"Andrew is a guy with a high basketball IQ. I think the time he had to sit out probably made him appreciate the opportunity to play and to help any way he can."

Steele sees Bama's strong play as the result of hard work beginning to pay off.

"I always knew we had it in us," he said. "But we also know we have a long way to go. We haven't arrived by any means."

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