Western Carolina Week Starts With Basketball

You’ve heard of North Carolina and South Carolina. Even East Carolina. By the time this week is over, you’ll know a lot about the athletics at Western Carolina. It starts with an Alabama basketball game Monday night and concludes with football homecoming Saturday.

Coach Anthony Grant’s Alabama men’s basketball team continues play in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic Monday when Bama hosts Western Carolina at 8 p.m. CST with television coverage from Coleman Coliseum by the SEC Network.

Alabama opened play in the tournament with an 82-54 win over Towson Friday. The unusual tournament has Bama going to Kansas City to play in the semifinals and finals Nov. 24 (vs. Iowa State) and 25 (either Maryland or Arizona State).

Friday’s win was the 100th for Grant as he begins his sixth season as Alabama coach. His 100-71 record at Bama is part of his 176-96 mark as a head coach as he begins his ninth year.

The Catamounts are 0-1 after falling at Mississippi State, 66-56, to start the season.

Western Carolina has a real veteran coach in Larry Hunter, who is in his 11th season with the Catamounts (140-153) and 35th season overall (649-377).

Western Carolina returns two starters and six letterwinners from last season’s 19-15 team that reached the finals of the Southern Conference Tournament. Senior James Sinclair averaged 11.8 points and 4.7 rebounds last year and is pre-season all-conference. He had a game-high 20 points against Mississippi State.

Monday’s contest marks the fourth meeting between the Tide and Catamounts, with Alabama holding a 3-0 lead in the all-time series. All three games were played in Tuscaloosa, with UA winning by an average margin of 31.0 points per game. Alabama captured a 97-66 victory over Western Carolina in the last meeting between the squads, which took place on Nov. 19, 2004.

Alabama has a mixture of youth and experience. The Tide returns five men who have considerable starting experience, even though the star of last year’s team, guard Trevor Releford, has graduated. Bama is led by guards Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper, forward Shannon Hale, and center Jimmie Taylor. Guard Retin Obasohan had an off-season injury that has limited his preparation.

In Bama’s opener, Randolph – who has been named team captain – had his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He also had team-highs of five assists and four steals.

Newcomers look to play a major role in Bama men’s basketball this year. The Tide has two transfers who practiced with the team last year, but were not able to play in games. Both were recovering from injuries as this season began. Guard Ricky Tarrant was able to play in the opener, but inside player Michael Kessens was held out to continue rehabilitation.

Early indications are that Alabama will get significant help from its 2013-14 signing class that includes guards Justin Coleman of Birmingham Wenonah, Devin Mitchell of Suwanee, Ga., Fort Collins, and Riley Norris of Albertville and forward Jeff Garrett of Gadsden, who played at Oldsmar Christian School in Florida as a senior.

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