Asbury paying big dividends

Alabama's most important men's basketball recruit this season may be someone who won't ever step foot on the floor in a competitive situation. <br><br>But don't be fooled. New assistant coach Tom Asbury is as competitive as they come.

After three years working in the business profession in Arizona, Asbury was informed of an opening on Mark Gottfried's staff, and the two quickly got in contact. The two had known each other for 15 years, dating back to when Gottfried was an assistant coach at UCLA.

Soon, Asbury found himself moving across the country and back into coaching.

Chuck Davis jockeys for position under the basket. Bama's sophomore power forward has been a special project of Coach Asbury's.

"I didn't have any real interest in head coaching, and I was satisfied with being out of coaching for a while, but I thought it would be fun to come back and work with Mark, I've known him for a long time," Asbury said.

Asbury spent 12 years as a head coach at Pepperdine then at Kansas State, compiling a 210-146 career record with four NCAA Tournament experiences.

Among his coaching strengths has been his teams' defensive play. In 1999 Kansas State led the nation in field goal percentage defense and Asbury's Kansas State teams led their conference in field goal percentage defense four years in a row, in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.

"Tom brings a great deal of experience," said Gottfried, after Asbury was hired. "He's been successful as a head coach. And he'll add a great dimension with our staff. I have known Tom for more than 15 years and know his character. I'm excited about all the things he brings to our staff."

Asbury said himself that he stresses defense and production from the post players. This year the group includes Jemareo Davidson, Chuck Davis, Evan Brock, and to a lesser extent Reggie Rambo, Akini Adkins, and Shawn Taylor.

"What you try to do with your post players is to cater their skills to your offense," Asbury said. "You've got to have them adjust and understand the shots they get out of your offense. There's no need to spend a lot of time working with them on shots they're not going to get in the game. Our primary focus is shots, game speed, and improving their skills they're going to use in the game."

Asbury (left) and Head Coach Mark Gottfried (right) have known each other for years.

Asbury faced a tough challenge immediately, as his post players had little or no experience. Even the only senior, Reggie Rambo, had served as a little-used backup in his first three years. Sophomore Chuck Davis was used so sparingly in his freshman season, that his career-high 20 points against Pittsburgh earlier this year was more than he scored all of last season.

Now, Bama's starting post players are Davis and Davidson, a true freshman.

"I had worked with Chuck in the spring and Jemareo came in the fall," Asbury said. "They're both real skilled, real long athletic guys. They're long on talent but short on experience.

"There's a new experience for them every day. Same thing with Akini and Shawn and Evan Brock. For that group of guys it's a learning experience every day."

For Asbury, although the players are a challenge, they are also a coach's dream. Every player listens attentively and does whatever he can to get better.

"They've been terrific," Asbury said. "They're hard working guys. They are good solid people from good solid families. They know they have limitations that they need to work on other than strength and conditioning, but they know they have a lot of things they need to develop and get better."

The improvement of Davis has been the most noticeable. Davis is now averaging close to 12 points per game, and is becoming one of those players that the Tide must have on the floor at all times.

Davis credits Asbury to his development as the Tide's best offensive threat from the post position.

True freshman Jermareo Davidson starts for the Tide at center.

"He's been around the game for a long time," Davis said. "He helps a lot with the little things. He's like any other coach. You can talk to him when things are wrong. He lets you know what's coming and anticipates really well."

As far as his personality, Davis said that Asbury is tough, but that's what is needed at this level. A tough, hard-nosed coach who will coach you to death, but is also there for you when you need him.

It helps to have a little bit of a personality too, which is exactly what Asbury has.

"He's a great guy," Davis said. "He's really funny and he jokes around a lot. He's tough on the guys, but he's really a hard worker."

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