Rebuilding season looms

Alabama basketball coach Mark Gottfried held his first fall press conference Tuesday to announce the beginning of fall practices and to address issues regarding the upcoming season.

Gottfried spent much of his time emphasizing the inexperience on his squad and the difficulties this season will present. A year after anything short of a trip to the Sweet 16 was a disappointment in most fans' eyes, Gottfried said this year's goal is simply to make it to the NCAA Tournament.

"You look at our team and look around the gym and who's really done anything?" Gottfried said. "Really? Nobody really has. Nobody on our team has really done anything. So, some people have got to step their games up to another level than they have in the past for us to be good."

Guard Earnest Shelton was a scoring machine on the Nassau trip. (AP photo)

He speculated that this year's squad would be a better passing team than the previous few years, but that the inside duo of 200-pound Evan Brock and 230-pound Chuck Davis might need help defending bigger post players.

Gottfried said his team might "open the floor up" more this year, and try to force a faster pace than his teams from the past.

"There's a process in college basketball and those guys (Brock and Davis) are maturing and we're back on the front end now of the process again like we were a few years ago with (Erwin Dudley and Kenny Walker), so it's going to come," Gottfried said.

"You just can't force Mother Nature."

Gottfried was asked about the status of sophomore Kennedy Winston as well. Winston, the leading returning scorer from last year's team, underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure on September 11 in Birmingham. At the time of the surgery, Crimson Tide athletic trainer John Morr set the full recovery date at November 1. On Tuesday, Gottfried said Winston's rehab has gone as planned and that November 1 was still the goal.

"Kennedy, I would say, will practice some this weekend," Gottfried said. "I don't know that he can make it through a full practice or four or five in a row right now. I think he can get in and out of practice a little bit. We want to watch him."

As for the freshmen, Bama's fifth-year head coach thinks they are coming along fine, especially Atlanta native Jamareo Davidson. The 6-10, 210-pound forward is the most offensively talented of the three scholarship freshmen on roster this season.

Gottfried said he sees the other two ­-- 6-9 Akini Adkins and 6-11 Shawn Taylor ­-- becoming very good players a little further down the line.

Sophomore forward Kennedy Winston will be expected to carry a much greater load this season. (AP photo)

"They're all different," Gottfried said. "I think Jamareo Davidson is probably ahead of the other two scholarship guys. Offensively, he's very talented ­ at least in our workouts that we're allowed to do, it seemed like he was a little bit ahead.

Gottfried said Taylor would be more of a defensive presence, using his size and quickness to block shots.

The Tide coach also talked about the team's performance during its trip to the Bahamas, where the Tide went undefeated while playing lesser competition from the island.

Gottfried said the summer trip acted as a three-week training camp for his players to mesh in the absence of departed seniors Dudley, Walker and Terrance Meade and sophomore Mo Williams, who left school early after his sophomore year for the NBA.

"Even though the competition wasn't great, we averaged 24 assists a game (in Nassau)," Gottfried said. "The last two or three years, with the personnel we had, it wasn't a group of guys that was a great passing team. We were good in other areas.

"This is a team that is going to be a great passing team ­ or has a chance to be."

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