Tide holds first basketball practice

TUSCALOOSA -- Mark Gottfried got a sneak peek at two thirds of his 2003-04 University of Alabama men's basketball team Monday afternoon when the Crimson Tide hit the floor for its first of 10 practices that will precede a trip to Nassau where it will play the Bahamian national and junior national teams.

"We spent a little more time teaching than maybe we have on our first days back in the past couple of years," said Gottfried who faces a season where he'll have to fill four starting spots after losing three 2003 starters to graduation and a fourth to the NBA. "But that's good. This is a good time to do some teaching. Our guys are in pretty good condition which I liked a lot. We've got a long way to go, but I like what I saw today."

By NCAA rules, Alabama's freshmen class cannot practice with the team or make the trip to Nassau. Rules do allow them to watch their teammates practice at this time of year, however, and the five which include Akini Adkins, Shawn Taylor, Jermareo Davidson, Justin Jonus and LaKory Daniels did just that Monday as all are in town and enrolled in summer school this semester to get a jump start on college. They sat in chairs along the court and watched their older teammates go through the two-hour practice.

Their teammates are a relatively young bunch when it comes to experience. While Alabama has four seniors, forwards Emmett Thomas and Reggie Rambo and guards Antoine Pettway and Demetrius Smith, there are only 25 total starts among them. Thomas started in 13 games last season as a JUCO transfer. Pettway started in 10 games last year. Rambo started in one his sophomore year, and Smith started in one game his sophomore year.

Alabama's junior class includes Earnest Shelton who has played in most of Alabama's games since he arrived as a freshman and who started in eight games at guard last season. He averaged 5.1 points as a sophomore, 6.1 as a freshman.

Kennedy Winston, a sophomore forward, started in ten games last season and averaged 11.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. He was Freshman All-Southeastern Conference. His fellow sophomores include forwards Evan Brock who played in 14 games last year and Chuck Davis who played in 13 games.

Also returning is forward Lucky Williams who had limited experience last season while waiting for eligibility, and Jason Reese, a walk-on guard who played in three games last year.

"This trip is big, really for everybody," said Gottfried whose team will benefit from the five games it will play in Nassau on its August 8-17 trip. "I look at Demetrius Smith, for instance, as a guy that's got a great opportunity. This trip should benefit him. And really, the same goes all around the floor. Earnest Shelton has played. And Kennedy only played in 17 games.

"There's really not a guy on the floor that shouldn't benefit. Every single one of them should."

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