Season starts soon

Alabama basketball coach Mark Gottfried has seen his team practice against each other. Now he's ready to see how they can do against someone else.

Global Sports, a travelling exhibition team made up of former college players, will visit Coleman Coliseum on Saturday for a 6 p.m. tip-off. Six days later, the Crimson Tide will face its first real foe in Pittsburgh, at the Coaches vs. Cancer classic in New York.

"We basically have seven or eight more practices before we play Pittsburgh," Gottfried said. "We've made a little progress. We're still not a great team, but we'll figure out through the year how good we can be. I like the personality of our team, but I don't know how ready we are to compete at the level we want to compete at."

Senior Antoine Pettway will be asked to both score and direct the offense from the point. (Kent Gidley photo)

Gottfried said that the first exhibition would be one where he could experiment with his top seven or eight players on the team. The roster includes 12 scholarship players and three walk-ons. Gottfried said that he hasn't settled in on a starting lineup, but the top eight would include Antoine Pettway, Demetrius Smith, Emmett Thomas, Earnest Shelton, and Kennedy Winston on the perimeter. The three big men who Gottfried will likely count on most will be sophomores Chuck Davis and Evan Brock and freshman Jemareo Davidson. The 6-foot-11 Davidson impressed in the Crimson and White scrimmage, scoring 17 points.

"He's real skilled and was very well coached in high school," Gottfried said. "He's a fine player, a late bloomer in high school. He wasn't on the national scene as far as top-20 guys, but he's gonna keep coming and coming."

Davidson is one of the keys to establishing a low-post game. With the graduation of Erwin Dudley and Kenny Walker, Gottfried has indicated that this team might be more perimeter oriented, but said that a post presence is definitely needed. Right now, the option is Chuck Davis, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound sophomore from Selma. Davis scored 19 points in the Crimson and White game.

"We need to establish one down low," Gottfried said. "Early in the season, it's Chuck Davis. We still need to find an inside presence, somebody who can score down low. We may not overpower people, but we'll have to out-finesse them."

Gottfried alluded to the fact that one or two of his freshman may be redshirted, and specifically mentioned Shawn Taylor, a 6-foot-11, 200-pound center who has shown great athletic and shot-blocking ability. But Taylor will likely need a year to add bulk and work on his offensive game before he can be effective.

"The redshirt rule applies as far as if they play in an exhibition game," Gottfried said. "If they play, they lose the redshirt year. We'll sit down, and put their families on the phone, and make a decision that's best."

Gottfried has also been dealing with injuries. Sophomore forward Kennedy Winston is recovering from a torn meniscus, and is likely 80 to 85 percent healthy right now. Winston led all scorers in the Crimson and White game with 23 points.

"His conditioning is getting better," Gottfried said. "He's not real explosive yet. You can tell he doesn't have the burst or quickness. He can play and will play, but he's not at 100 percent yet."

Senior guard Demetrius Smith had his two front teeth knocked out last Wednesday in practice, and did not play in the Crimson and White game. Gottfried expects Smith to be available on Saturday.

Sophomore center Chuck Davis will be counted on for his inside play early in the season.

"He practiced (Sunday)," Gottfried said. "He'll have more work done on Thursday. He's a little gun shy. He doesn't want to get clocked in the mouth again."

Lucky Williams, a sophomore forward from Nigeria, has been sidelined by a knee injury and will likely miss a couple of weeks. Albeit the nickname, Williams hasn't had much luck since he's arrived on campus. In his first season, he was ruled a partial qualifier, but later in the season it was discovered that he was a full qualifier. He redshirted that season, but missed 14 games last season due to a violation.

"For a guy named Lucky, he has the worst luck in the world," Gottfried said. "But his attitude is phenomenal. He's one guy you pull for to do well. I hate that he got hurt, because it puts him behind. His attitude is as good as it can be."

Gottfried mentioned one thing that his team is doing well—passing the ball. Since there aren't any established playmakers on the team, save Winston, it's something that will be essential to the team's success.

"I like the fact that we really pass the ball well," Gottfried said. "They should be fun to watch. Collectively, our strengths are that we pass the ball well. We're not strong physically, but we're long and we're quick."

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