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Everyone, including Avery Johnson, knows that the names Alabama and Oregon are more synonymous with college football than basketball. In fact, Johnson knows it better than most. But unlike many, Johnson believes that Alabama can be both a football and basketball school.
That’s part of the reason Johnson is taking his Alabama basketball team to Birmingham to play Oregon Monday night. The Crimson Tide is a surprising 7-2 this year with five straight wins in Johnson’s first year at Bama. Oregon is coached by Dana Altman, who is in his sixth year with the Ducks and has a 132-59 record, including a 9-2 record this year.
Tipoff Monday is at 8 p.m. CST in the Legacy Arena at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center. ESPNU will televise the game.
This will be Alabama’s first game in Birmingham since the 2011 Tide defeated Oklahoma State, 69-52.
Earlier this year Johnson took his team to Clemson to play, and he said he’s looking for more teams like that (football powers).
Johnson said, “When you say Oregon and Alabama everyone thinks football, but we’re trying to partner with them (football) and continue to grow our basketball programs and the only way you can to it is take it on the road. They’re coming on the road to play us and we’re going on the road to play them next year. And we’re currently talking about potential candidates to play us in Birmingham next year. It could potentially be another school like the way we played Clemson recently. Both of us are in the Final Four for football and we’re trying to get there for basketball. So that’s kind of the mindset.
“One of the reasons I took this job is because I had a chance to do some research on what Billy Donovan did at Florida. It can work at a football school. You look at what Dana Altman has done at Oregon. He’s a heck of a coach. You have football schools like Florida, Clemson, Texas, Oregon. Michigan State has been doing it for years – that’s something Coach (Nick) Saban and I talk about all the time. When he was coaching football there they had basketball and football rolling. It’s doable.
That’s not the only reason for playing in Birmingham.
Johnson said, “The idea was we have a tremendous following in Birmingham – alumni, donors, students who live there. Birmingham is fertile ground for some of the top recruits in the country. I think whatever happens it’s a win-win. From what I’ve heard we’re going to have a pretty good crowd, which is always helpful.
“We feel as our fan base continues to grow and we get our students more involved and the word gets out and our fans travel with us like other basketball programs’ fans travel with them, we’ll take a step in the right direction.”
He said that he hopes that Alabama fans will come out and watch his team, “take a look at what we’re doing on the floor. Every time we go into a game we have a lot of questions about our team. Hopefully, we’ll get some of those questions answered and people just see how hard our team is working. We’re very flawed, but we’re working hard and we try to overcome some of our weaknesses with effort and organization and making good decisions on the floor, and playing with mental and physical toughness, and everyone understanding his role.
“We started off this last game, my man Retin (Obasohan) thought he was Michael Jordan because he was coming off SEC Player of the Week. We don’t play like that. We don’t have any Michael Jordans. So once we got in the second half of the game everybody got back to playing his role and playing Bama basketball and we have a better chance when we do that.”
Obsohan is not Michael Jordan, but he is leading Alabama with 13.9 points per game.
Johnson has great regard for Oregon, particularly 6-7, 225-pound Dillon Brooks, who is averaging 15.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. “Man, what a player,” Johnson said. “He’s strong, he’s physical, he rebounds.” Johnson also mentioned Ducks guard Tyler Dorsey (6-4), who averages 14.4 points per game.
“Their team gets steals,” Johnson said. “Their team has 91 steals in 11 games. That lets us know we have to take care of the ball.
“They are a well put-together team. You can tell they were strategic in how they put this team together. They know what they are doing.”
Alabama again will be without two men who were starters. Guard Dazon Ingram is out for the year with a broken foot, while Shannon Hale missed the last game for “medical reasons.” Johnson said that he hopes to have Hale back for the Tide’s next game, which is against Jacksonville State Dec. 29 in Tuscaloosa.