Releford, Steele ‘Likely' To Return
Topic number one at Alabama Coach Anthony Grant's briefing was the status of four suspended players, and Grant got to the heart of the matter quickly. "Most likely," he said, the Crimson Tide will have sophomore starting point guard Trevor Releford and junior wing Andrew Steele back for Tuesday's game against Florida.
Senior low post player JaMychal Green, also suspended prior to the LSU game, and junior power forward Tony Mitchell, suspended for both the Auburn and LSU games last week, continue to be suspended for an indefinite period. Grant has elected not to discuss the violations of any of the suspended players, other than to say that Green, Releford, and Steele's suspension was not related to Mitchell's and that at least the Releford and Steele situations were "different" than Green's.
This is the third time Green has been suspended.
Grant said that "Andrew Steele has been as fine a student-athlete as I've coached. He made a mistake. The same with Trevor Releford. I think their teammates understand that."
Meanwhile, Alabama has one more day to prepare for a Florida team ranked among the nation's top 15 teams. The Gators are coached by Billy Donovan, Grant's longtime mentor when Grant was an assistant at Florida.
Grant said the Alabama-Florida games have been "difficult – particularly since we haven't won one."
Florida has lost its last two games, a not-surprising blowout loss to Kentucky in Lexington and a shocking home loss to Tennessee last Saturday. The Gators are 19-6 overall and 7-3 in Southeastern Conference games.
Playing without the four suspended players last Saturday in Baton Rouge, Alabama played well in the second half but had too much to overcome after scoring just 15 first half points and being down 16 at intermission. In the second half Alabama scored the first 12 points of the period and cut the margin to as few as three points, but could never get caught up and finally fell, 67-58. "The guys came out and played the way we asked them to play and did the best they could," Grant said. "The guys continued to fight."
The Tide is now 16-8 overall and 5-5 in conference games.
Grant said that the suspensions last week in his third season as "the leader" of the team were disappointing, particularly coming so late in the season. But he said in dealing with 18-22 year-olds, he knows there is always the possibility that some will face decisions and make the wrong choice.
He also said, "It's my team. I've got responsibility to the players, to the team, to their parents, and to this university."
Historically, a player coming back from suspension has not started the next game. Bama started last week's game at LSU with junior point guard Ben Eblen and four true freshmen – Nick Jacobs in the low post, 6-5 Levi Randolph (normally a guard) at power forward, and Trevor Lacey and Rodney Cooper on the wings.
If that's the lineup, it will have Lacey as the leading scorer at 6.6 points per game and Jacobs as the leading rebounder at 3.8 per game. Releford averages 12.4 points per game.
Cooper was the non-suspension story of Alabama's trip to Baton Rouge. He scored a career-high 28 points, the most by any Bama player this year, and also had five steals. Jacobs also had a solid game with 14 points.
Tuesday night's game, which begins at 6 p.m. CST, will be televised by ESPN.
Although the absence of Bama's two top scorers and rebounders (Green 14.1 and 7.2, Mitchell 13.1, 7.0) skews the match, it figures to be a battle of Florida's SEC-best offense, scoring 78.8 points per game, against Alabama's defense, ranked 13th in the nation in allowing only 58.3 points per game.
The Gators have five players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by Kenny Boynton at 17.5 and Bradley Beal at 14.4.
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