Bama Prospects In The Spotlight

BIRMINGHAM – The 2013 AHSAA Final 48 at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center had quite the Crimson tint during Wednesday's semifinal state tourney action, whether one considers former players, a signee, or future Alabama prospects. (And that doesn't even consider the appearance of Alabama Coach Anthony Grant.) To the categories:

BAMA BOUND: Greensboro post man Jimmie Taylor, an Alabama signee, is listed at 6-9, but most feel he's now at 6-10 and may not be done growing. One SEC assistant who scouted him intensively said Taylor's defense could put him in the Nerlens Noel (Kentucky's injured forward) category, but that his offense is "a work in progress. He plays a lot of high post now, and Alabama will have him down low."

In Greensboro's 65-57 loss to Madison Academy, Taylor posted six points, nine boards, and seven blocks. He is a monster on the defensive end

"It's kind of hard to put in words," said Raiders Coach Marty Everett of his ace defender. "If (Taylor's) not blocking a shot, he's altering a shot. He's patient on defense, and he averages six or seven blocks a game."

One thing Taylor can do now that current Tide big men struggle with is grab an offensive board, go up, and slam it home. With authority. He has not shown he is a go-to guy in the post, even when guarded by 6-3 guys. He has a ways to go as a scorer.

JUNIOR TO WATCH: It was a long time coming, but FNL finally got to see Wenonah point guard Justin Coleman, a junior listed at 5-10 but likely shorter than that. Think Chris Paul trapped in Antoine Pettway's body for this player, likely the state of Alabama's top junior prospect.

The tenacious defender with the modified Mohawk seemed to be all over the floor, as he posted 13 points, three assists, and three boards.

(The AHSAA official box initially credited him with 11 points, giving a bucket to 6-10 Artis Cleveland, who actually did not score. Upon my inquiry, it was corrected. Props to Ron Ingram of the AHSAA for having it re-checked.)

"We've been able to do some more things since Justin got here," said Dragons Coach Cedric Lane, after his team edged Paul Bryant, 61-59. "We changed a lot of things in our offense since (Coleman) got here." Coleman had a season high of 56 points in a road game earlier this year.

Added Stampede Coach/ex-Alabama player Shon Peck-Love: "(Coleman) broke it open in the first half, not necessarily by scoring, but by making passes that led to easy baskets. He had his hand print on this game."

Peck-Love took Bryant to its first Final Four in the school's tenth year since opening.

Coleman proved equally adept at the spot-up 3-pointer, the pull-up 15 footer, and driving to the hoop. He's also a very good free throw shooter (8-8) and passer. Some of his passes went through hands. He has mastered the no-look pass, like few seen in Alabama since the days of Ennis Whatley (Phillips/Alabama) in the early '80s.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant was on hand to scout Coleman, and, along with top assistant Dan Hipsher, has been to several of the junior's games this year. The Tide is involved in a hotly-contested battle with Arkansas (among others) for Coleman's services. Reportedly, Hogs Coach Mike Anderson, a Birmingham native, has a relationship with Coleman's family.

That said, indications are no one is out-working Grant and his staff for Coleman's services. They've even been to a few Wenonah practices.

Others who are pursuing Coleman include Auburn, Georgia, Florida State and UAB. All have offered.

SUPER SOPH: Paul Bryant sharp-shooter David Freeman is 6-2 and has the ability to bust zone defenses. He connected on a pair of bombs. He is also an active defender for the press-happy Stampede.

FABULOUS FRESHMAN: Maybe the best player in the state, Madison Academy's 6-4 ninth-grader Joshua Langford posted 30 points and 16 boards in the win over Greensboro. Langford has a verb al offer from Alabama, and has for a year now. That's all he can get until his junior year. Tennessee and Auburn have also offered, but his cousin by the same name did not have a wonderful experience on the Plains, so the Tigers are considered a longshot.

"Josh down the stretch – special players find ways to win. Unbelievable poise," said Mustangs Coach Andy Batson. Langford's clutch three-pointer with 1:35 left gave his team a 57-55 lead it did not relinquish. He scored 15 of his 30 in the fourth quarter, and nailed four straight free throws in the final 21 seconds.

"I had the will in me not to let my team lose," Langford said. "I kept taking it to (Taylor, despite having his shot blocked several times). I knew the ref was going to help me out, eventually."

CRIMSON CONNECTIONS: Faith Academy lost its semifinal 5A match against Center Point, and heading back to the Port City with them was assistant coach Solomon Davis, a walk-on at Alabama during the Mark Gottfried regime. His Rams finished 21-11. Also spotted in the crowd: former Tide/NFL player Bobby Humphrey, whose son Marlon is a top cornerback prospect on Bama and everyone else's list. Also spotted was former Alabama football and basketball radio commentator Doug Layton.

HOW ‘BOUT BOB: Former Tide lineman Bob Baumhower has done quite well for himself in the restaurant biz, so it was good to learn his company was catering the media food. For lunch, we enjoyed "Almost Fried Turkey/Bacon Wraps," and dinner featured pulled pig and peach cobbler. Though the pork was semi-tough, the wrap was melt-in-your-mouth good. Overall you've got to hand it to Baumhower's; they rarely disappoint.

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