Tide Fans Buckle Up For Recruiting

Wednesday marks the opening of the spring signing period for men’s basketball. Normally, schools do most all their recruiting in the fall period. Alabama tried to do that, but came away with only two “true” signees for four spots.

Those two, Carver-Montgomery’s Brandon “B.A.” Austin and 6-10 Luverne center Donta Hall, are in the fold securely and plan to play for new Alabama Coach Avery Johnson. They didn’t have much choice, as both have signed Letters of Intent to do so, and only a release by Johnson and Director of Athletics Bill Battle would free them to look elsewhere without sitting out a year. Neither has given any indication of wanting out of their pledge to The University.

A third player listed as a signee did not sign an LOI. Theodore guard Dazon Ingram, the state’s Mr. Basketball, signed scholarship papers only and wanted to wait to see who his coach would be before inking an LOI. Ingram was close to former Tide Coach Anthony Grant, and even more so with UA Assistant Antoine Pettway. He wanted to know if a coaching change was made, whether the new boss would retain Pettway. That’s precisely why Ingram decommitted when Grant was fired.

In regard to keeping “Coach Pett,” Johnson did just that, and with Johnson’ s NBA background, it is thought that there is a very high probability Monday that Ingram will announce for the Crimson Tide, and sign an LOI Wednesday. He got to meet Johnson, who traveled the state with Pettway Thursday meeting signees, prospects, and high school coaches.

The thing is, even if Ingram expectedly returns to the Tide fold, there is room for at least two more signees. It was one until guard Ricky Tarrant elected to leave Bama.

Where Will Johnson turn for one or two more players? Most agree that final slot, if there’s only one, should be filled by a post player, specifically a center or power forward, or someone who can play both spots.

It’s possible Johnson could call a former Auburn player.

Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News retweeted word from Kennesaw State that 6-10, 220-pound center Willy Kouassi, who played a year on The Plains before transferring, is graduating from the school in North Cobb County, Georgia and has been granted a release to spend his final year of college eligibility elsewhere. One reason he might consider Tuscaloosa is he visited there several times when he was a senior at Birmingham’s Central Park Christian School.

He spurned the Tide for Auburn at the time, likely because the Tigers offered his teammate Bernard Morena and Alabama showed little interest. Both left Auburn after a season and headed to Kennesaw. Kouassi averaged 4.6 points, five boards, and blocked 36 shots in 27 games for the Owls. He has one year to play one. It’s uncertain if Bama will offer him, but he’s available.

One person who does have a Tide offer is Nick King, who is leaving Memphis and also has a committable offer from Charlotte. King is a small forward at 6-7, 220 who was Class AAA Mr. Basketball in Tennessee two years ago. He has two years of eligibility and would need to sit out a year if he signs with Alabama, barring a waiver from the NCAA. He averaged 7.2 points and 3.8 boards for the Tigers this year. He seems to be a Shannon Hale type forward.

King was highly regarded coming out of high school in Memphis, and finished his East High School career with over 1,900 points and 1,000 rebounds. As a senior, he averaged 24.4 points, 15.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 blocks. A consensus top-50 recruit, King was rated nationally by Scout.com (No. 21), and was a consensus top-10 small forward in the nation.

Johnson has a relative who he will likely contact, although Kentucky and Mississippi State seem to be the final contestants for Malik Newman. Newman, a 6-4, 185-pound shooting guard out of Callaway High in Jackson, Miss, also has offers from N.C. State, Ole Miss, Kansas, Ohio State and LSU, among others. He is considered the top shooting guard in the land and the nation’s fourth best prospect overall.

As a senior, Newman averaged 29.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. His dad, Horatio Webster, played in Starkville, and that, combined with the Bulldogs’ hiring of Ben Howland, has them battling Kentucky tooth and nail for Newman’s services. While Avery Johnson is his cousin, and coached in the NBA, Bama is a longshot here.

Johnson pointed out that he was involved in the college basketball recruiting process while his son, Avery Johnson, Jr., was recruited by Texas A&M. The new coach also mentioned his relationships with high school and AAU coaches in Texas, where the Johnsons lived until Bill Battle came calling.

So, besides first priority Ingram, there are other potential puzzle pieces. Kouassi fits the bill at a need position, but there are other posts available at the juco and transfer level as well. Newman will be a tough pull. King is intriguing, but is he more than another Hale? Who will fill the one or two late slots for Johnson and the Tide?

Time will tell. As Johnson says, “Buckle up.”


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