Alabama Basketball Coach Avery Johnson doesn’t contend he is the player he was as a longtime NBA star — quite the contrary —, but he took to the court with his Crimson Tide team in practice this week as Bama prepared for its final home game of the regular season.
Alabama will host Ole Miss at 7:30 p.m.CST Wednesday inColeman Coliseum with the SEC Network televising the game. Both teams are 9-7 in Southeastern Conference play as they meet for the only time this season.
Johnson said that it was the first time he had participated in practice from start to finish. “I had to put ice on my knees (afterwards),” he said.
Johnson said, “I don’t like to talk to my players about my playing career. I’m the coach. I’m a teacher.”
His participation was in part because the team was short a guard, but also a teaching experience. In addition to videotape sessions and coaching, he sees benefit in demonstration.
“We’re trying to raise our players to a different level,” he said. “That’s what coaching is all about.”
Johnson said his team is discouraged after having dropped back-to-back games to Georgia and at Texas A&M, “but we’re not surrendering.
“We’d like to go out (at home) with a bang. We know what we have to do on both ends of the floor.”
He said that Ole Miss, which is averaging 76.8 points per SEC game, “can score the ball. We’re going to have to play good defense.” The Tide is second in the league in scoring defense, giving up 67.9 points per game.
Rebounding could be a factor. Alabama leads the conference with a plus 6.9 rebounds per game, but the Rebels feature the league’s top rebounder in 6-9, 240-pound senior Sebastian Saiz, who averages 9.9 per game.
Alabama has not lost three games in a row this season, but the Tide is going to have to start faster than it has in recent games. In three of its last four outings, Bama has failed to reach the 20-point mark in the first 20 minutes of play. The Tide was able to overcome its poor start with a 57-54 win at Missouri, but fell to Georgia by 60-55 and at Texas A&M by 56-53.
“It was a tough loss at Texas A&M,” Johnson said. “We weren’t perfect on defense, but we were pretty good giving up just 56 points, especially considering the free throw discrepancy.” The Aggies were good on 26-37 foul shots, Bama 7-9.
Some 15 minutes prior to tipoff Alabama will honor senior Jimmie Taylor and graduate transfers Corban Collins and Bola Olaniyan, playing their final games in Coleman Coliseum. Senior Shannon Hale has been suspended at least through the end of regular season play and is not permitted to take part in any team activities, including the Senior Day ceremony.