Thoroughbreds Make Up Grant Class

You can't win the Kentucky Derby riding Mr. Ed. Alabama won the sweepstakes last week when the Crimson Tide landed one of the nation's top basketball players. Although Trevor Lacey may not have been listed as a five-star prospect, when the likes of Kentucky and Kansas are in pursuit, you can bet he's a thoroughbred.

Trevor Lacey, a 6-4 shooting guard from Huntsville's S.R. Butler High School, ended the suspense last Wednesday by announcing he would sign with The University of Alabama. Crimson Tide Head Coach Anthony Grant was elated with the turn of events as he scored the equivalent of a trifecta not once but twice with the coveted player.

Lacey becomes the third top 100 recruit. He was listed number 59. He joins fellow four-star prospects Levi Randolph, a 6-6 shooting guard from Bob Jones High in Madison, who was number 30, and Nick Jacobs, a 6-8 power forward from South Atlanta High, who is number 92.

That's not all, though. The stellar field is rounded out by:

Rodney Cooper, a 6-6 small forward from Russell County High School in Phenix City, who joined Lacey and Randolph on the Alabama Sports Writers Association Super Five and who was a three-star prospect and, like Lacey, a Parade All-America.

Retin Ojomoh, a huge surprise, is a 6-1 point guard who is a 17-year-old member of the Belgian Under 20 national team, and whose signing was announced the Friday after Lacey's announcement.

Fall signee and Senegal native Moussa Gueye, a seven-foot center from Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, is a top-rated junior college player complimenting the high school additions. Because Gueye did not play this year, he has three years of college eligibility remaining.

The six athletically gifted signees representing the 2011 class are capable of implementing the full-throttle race horse style of basketball preferred by Grant.

Lacey's signing reverberates throughout the college basketball world signifying Alabama's recruiting resurgence. Border patrol by Grant and staff shielded blue-blooded programs Kansas and Kentucky from rustling the four-time all-state hoopster.

His protracted recruiting process enabled Lacey to compare and analyze every option. The lure of the high profile traditional powers was intriguing for several reasons. Butler High School Coach Jack Doss, a surefire future Hall of Fame candidate, is a perennial state power accustomed to winning championships. Lacey, a three-time Alabama High School champion, was interested in continuing the trend at the next level. No amount of lip service from a suitor can be substituted for results. Reaching an NIT Championship Game and winning the SEC Western Division were impressive de facto accomplishments for an Alabama program purportedly on the rise.

A surrounding cast to discourage double and triple teams was also important in his decision. Grant's early signing class of top talent gave Lacey a reason to strongly consider overtures from the Crimson Tide. A star relishes an appreciative audience, and the Coleman Coliseum faithful lavished praise on the Huntsville native on each campus visit.

Alabama does not have any horse racing venues but Kentucky does. One thoroughbred not headed for the Bluegrass Commonwealth is Trevor Lacey. Although in-state rival Auburn, Kansas and other schools contended for his signature, reversing the recent trend of Alabama talent galloping for the land of horses was significant. The cornerstone of the Crimson Tide program's prosperity historically has been achieved with a succession of stars from Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and every other city, town, hamlet and village across Alabama. Watching nationally ranked homegrown talent wearing a jersey color besides the crimson and white could be a distant memory as long as Anthony Grant calls Tuscaloosa home.

Lacey is a game and program changer. He averaged 31.4 points, 8 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.6 assists last season. He is the second player to receive the prestigious state of Alabama Mr. Basketball award twice following former Alabama standout Ronald Steele. Past regimes have proclaimed racehorse basketball would be prevalent in Tuscaloosa. Grant's stable of prized recruits bring the type of offensive firepower to enhance the trademark rip'n run defense. The head coach has shown a proclivity for transforming players with laissez-faire guarding tendencies into stalwart defenders.

A state devoid of an equine racetrack will have the basketball equivalent on the Coleman Coliseum hardwood in the coming years. Grant displays championship caliber qualities as a coach creating standards on and off the court. Fulfilled potential by the celebrated sextet under his tutelage will establish a goal for future prospects to aspire.

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York displays Alabama's history of producing highly sought after thoroughbreds. Anthony Grant and staff have just brought into fold one of the state's most impressive young colts with the acquisition of Huntsville high school legend, Trevor Lacey. His pledge would have moved the program one step closer to the desired destination, but in conjunction with the other five top caliber players, Alabama's fortunes can make a colossal leap. The last piece of the puzzle will fit well in the grand scheme of striving for championships and attracting future talent.

"Why Alabama?" was the question posed to Lacey by a media member.

Lacey said, "I felt like it was home. I developed a great relationship with Coach Grant and the players. I was good friends with Levi (Randolph). Coach Grant mentioned to me if you have what you're looking for at home, why leave?"

A litany of factors created an ambiance of home in Tuscaloosa turning in the Tide's favor – tangible progress towards becoming a championship program, a 2011 class of superb recruits, and an enthusiastically supportive fan base craving excellence. "Sweet Home Alabama" orchestrated by maestro Grant became the natural choice for Trevor Lacey.

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