"I think to a degree we're still trying to figure that out."
With just one full-time starter back, the 2003 squad has been rebuilt from top to bottom. Gottfried explained that the athletes are still feeling their way.
"We had the game in New York (against Pittsburgh) where I think our inside guys were better than our perimeter guys. Then they disappeared a little bit, and our perimeter guys stepped up and made shots. We're still trying to find our identity. I don't know that we know who we are yet."
Last Wednesday against a quality Charlotte squad, the Tide played reasonably well both inside and around the perimeter. But according to forward Kennedy Winston, defense keyed the Bama win.
"I think we grew up a lot from the last game we played," Winston said. "On defense we pressured guys. We had a good first half and held them to a low shooting percentage. When we do that, we've got a chance to play with anybody. It was a good win."
Alabama led by as many as 15 points early on, but Charlotte made a run to end the half, which continued through the first several possessions after the break. But perhaps surprisingly, the still-developing Tide team did not give way.
"Charlotte came out hot in the second half," Winston said. "Coach called a time out and we buckled down. We definitely grew up (Wednesday) night."
True freshman Jemareo Davidson contributed valuable minutes against the bigger Charlotte squad, holding his own against older and taller players.
"We knew they were going to come out hard to start the second half," Davidson said. "We just had to think about what got us the lead in the first place and go back to that game plan. Just play harder."
The 79-72 victory upped Bama's record to 3-2. "We've got a ways to go, but the Charlotte win helped our confidence," Gottfried said. "Hopefully it'll help us overall."
When it comes to recruiting, fans can easily appreciate raw numbers. If he's tall, if he can rebound and score--sign him up. But Gottfried knows that refusing to give up in the face of adversity requires traits that don't show up in any box score. And he's incorporated that belief in Bama's recruiting.
Gottfried commented, "I think that our team is made up of some great guys with some courage and character. That's one thing we have. That's one thing we try to recruit. We just have to get better as a basketball team over a 40-minute period."
Developing a winning basketball team is far more complicated than just running tall players onto the court. It's a matter of chemistry and balance, and the 2003 Tide players are starting to get a feel for each other.
"I think we grew up some Wednesday," Davidson said. "We played several people to fill different roles. If we needed rebounding, then Coach Gottfried would put another big man in."
Junior guard Earnest Shelton agrees.
"Everybody is starting to realize their roles," he said. "Players are starting to step their games up. Jemareo didn't score a lot (Wednesday night), but he played well. Ken (forward Kennedy Winston) didn't have one of his most explosive nights.
"Really, if he had had one of his better scoring nights, then we would have won by more than we did."
Point guard Antoine Pettway concentrated on running the Tide offense for most of the game. But when Charlotte took the lead late in the contest, the senior stepped up to can two three-pointers for Bama.
"I think we found ourselves a bit," Pettway said. "When we got down by two points, that was the time to look deep inside and start playing basketball.
"I think all of us grew up a lot (Wednesday) night."
Asked afterwards if the pieces were starting to come together, Gottfried almost agreed. But after reflecting a moment, he answered cautiously. "They are (coming together) some, but we've still got a ways to go. But I like what I'm seeing in the games."
Leave it to the true freshman to caution against complacency.
"We can't get the big head about the win," Davidson said. "We've got to be ready to play hard, no matter how good the other guys are. You have to be prepared for whatever."