Give Winston an assist

TUSCALOOSA -- Kennedy Winston played in only 17 of the University of Alabama's 29 games last season, a condensed freshman year that perhaps led him to make a veteran decision.

He says he feels it's more important for him to spend his summer working out and playing with his Crimson Tide teammates and has decided to bow out of the USA Basketball final trials for the USA Junior World Championship team.

The 6-foot-7 forward was among 16 finalists for the team after making it through the first of two cuts at the May 30-June 1 Trials. The official 12-member team will be finalized during the June 24-July 6 training camp in Dallas. Those who make the team will commit nearly four weeks of their summer to the team as, in addition to practice leading to competition, they'll play in the June 30 - July 5 Global Games in Dallas and then the July 10-20 FIBA Men's Junior World Championship Tournament in Greece.

Winston says his decision was tough but the more he thought about Alabama's August team trip to the Bahamas to get in some games with the Bahamian national and junior national teams, the more he realized he needed to be with his teammates getting more experience and accustomed to playing alongside them.

"I have a great respect for the USA team, and it was a hard decision because I know that would be a great experience for me," said Winston who averaged 11.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in his first season with Alabama and was voted to the 2003 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team by the league's coaches. "But my first priority is with my teammates at Alabama.

"If I made that team, we were going to be gone for most of the summer. I need to work on some things personally, and I couldn't work on those things with that team (because it's not geared toward individual work). Plus we (Alabama) lost a lot of players to graduation. We've lost a lot of experience, so a lot of us are going to need to step up. We need to work together as much as we can and gel and get ready for our season."

Crimson Tide head coach Mark Gottfried says he was pleasantly surprised by Winston's call from his hometown to ask advice and then convey his decision. "I don't think I could have talked him out of it," said Gottfried. "He's really committed to this team. We talked about the pluses of him playing on the national team, but in the end he said he wanted to go into our preparations fresh. He said it was more important to him to be with his teammates and work on our season.

"I thought it was a very unselfish move on his part."

Alabama announced on Tuesday that its men's basketball team will travel to Nassau August 8-17 to compete in five games. In addition to the competition, the NCAA allows the teams traveling for summer play ten days for practice prior to competition.

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