On the eve of the Alabama-Kentucky basketball game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the 2016-17 Alabama men’s basketball team began preseason practice Friday in hopes of being competitive with the hardwood Wildcats in the not-too-distant future.
The 14-man Alabama squad had two Friday sessions in the Coleman Coliseum practice gym, a morning and an afternoon workout.
Coach Avery Johnson enters his second season at the helm of the Crimson Tide program. Johnson led Alabama to an 18-15 record last season, tying Wimp Sanderson’s record for most wins by a first-year head coach set in 1980-81. Johnson said he was as excited as his players to get things officially started on Friday.
The huge loss from last year’s team is All-Southeastern Conference guard Retin Obasohan. Alabama returns two starters and eight lettermen from last season’s squad that reached the NIT. The Tide will welcome four newcomers to the program, along with two transfers who are now eligible for game participation.
Senior Shannon Hale returns as the team's top scorer, averaging 10.8 points per game last season, and redshirt freshman Dazon Ingram returns to the court after being sidelined for the majority of the season with an injury. Ingram’s 5.9 rebounds per game were leading the team before he was injured.
Avery Johnson, Jr., who came from Texas A&M, and Nick King, who came from Memphis, spent last year as sit-outs practicing with the Tide. In addition to Johnson and King, graduate transfers Corban Collins (Morehead State) and Bola Olaniyan (Southern Illinois) are immediately eligible to suit up for the Tide.
“Our team's been working hard and we've had a pretty grueling off season to say the least,” Coach Johnson said. “Our off season program was one that needed to be seriously evaluated. We did it. I like some of the things I experienced in our evaluation, and there were others that we needed to tweak and improve upon. We think we got that done and we think our players are in a little bit better shape and are a little bit stronger. Some are still not where we want them to be from a mental and physical standpoint, but they're young and they're maturing and they're developing so they'll get there.”
As for the start of practice Friday, Johnson said, "Overall, we had good energy in practice this morning. Probably one of our most physical practices that we've had here. We've got a lot of work to do. I like that we have some continuity with guys. We pretty much have a team where everybody's, for the most part, healthy. There are no serious limitations on anybody."
Alabama will open the season with an exhibition game vs. Faulkner on Nov. 3. The regular season will begin on Nov. 11 with a double header. The women’s team will host New Orleans at 5 p.m., followed by the men facing Coastal Carolina at 8 p.m.
The second annual Tide Tipoff event will be held Oct. 21. Doors open at 6 p.m. for autographs, and the event begins at 7 p.m.
Tickets are on sale online at RollTide.com/Tickets or by calling 1-877-TIDETIX (843-3849) or at the ticket office in Coleman Coliseum.null