Hines, LIke Tide, Under The Radar

Those following Alabama basketball are aware of the Big Three -- Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, and JaMychal Green. Most also know Charvez Davis, who can get on a flamboyant run of three-point shots. Even the subs--steady Andrew Steele, enigmatic Senario Hillman, tough Ben Eblen--are part of the conversation.

One Alabama starter flies under the radar. Chris Hines started the final 14 games of 2010 and has started 25 of 26 games this season. Hines, a 6-8, 227-pound senior, has been in the Crimson Tide program two years.

"I'm like a fifth-year sophomore," Hines said. "I went to prep school, then to junior college, and then came to Alabama," he said.

Hines was 4A player of the year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association in 2006 as he led Hillcrest High School of Evergreen to the state championship. He averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds per game as a senior and was MVP of the state tournament.

From there he went to Atlanta for a year of prep school, then migrated to Southwestern Illinois Community College. He led his 2009 team to the national junior college tournament and the region title as he averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds to help his team to a 35-4 record.

The numbers haven't been like that at Alabama, but he has been a contributor. As Bama has won 13 of its last 15 games, going 10-2 thus far in Southeastern Conference play, Hines four times has had 10-rebound games. He had a big three-point play (layup and free throw) to end the first half in a win at LSU. A fallaway jump shot helped stop the bleeding in a come-from-behind win over Arkansas.

This year he is averaging 5.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 28 minutes of play per game. He has also contributed 41 blocked shots, 35 steals, and 37 assists.

Hines said it has been a good season. "It could have been better if we had won some of the early games, but we have been strong in SEC games," he said. "I think we learned from those early games."

Alabama is barely being noticed on the national basketball stage, but Hines hopes that changes as tournament time approaches.

"Basketball is a tournament game," he said. "My life has been about big games."

His biggest game to date came in the regular season finale last year, a 73-61 win over Auburn. Hines had 13 points on 6-8 shooting.

Alabama hosts Auburn at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday in Coleman Coliseum. The Tide defeated the Tigers, 68-58, earlier this season in Auburn.

"We need to play our best down the stretch," Hines said. "Auburn is always a good rivalry game. For those of us from Alabama, it's about bragging rights. We need to hold up our side of the bargain.

"We don't take anyone for granted. Any team can beat you. We don't underestimate Auburn."

He said the attitude of the Tide is "We stay hungry. We never think we have arrived. That's our identity. We stay the course. We believe in it. We trust Coach (Anthony) Grant."

Alabama hasn't gotten much respect, even while moving to a tie for the top spot in the SEC. Bama is not ranked in the top 25 by the Associated Press, and is not even getting a vote in the Coaches Poll.

"I want a ranking," Hines said. "If it's not there, we're going to continue to play hard. We're going to control what we can control. But I'm pretty sure all of our guys would like to be ranked. But it works good working under the radar, and we'll continue to work under the radar and knock teams off, ranked and unranked."

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