The 2001-2002 Crimson Tide men's basketball season begins with flourish of activities on Thursday, November 1. Alabama opens its season that night at 7 p.m. with an exhibition game in Coleman Coliseum (15,316) against Athletes in Action. And the day also marks Southeastern Conference Basketball Media Day in Birmingham. Junior guard Terrance Meade and junior forward Erwin Dudley will represent the Tide players at the annual gathering of the 12 SEC schools' men's and women's head coaches and key players. The conference office's appointed time slot for Alabama there was 10:50 a.m. bringing Mark Gottfried and his two players back to Tuscaloosa just a couple of hours before Thursday night's tip-off.
AIA marks the first of two exhibition games Alabama will play. The Tide opens the season officially against Mississippi Valley State in the first round of the Guardians Classic in Coleman Coliseum on November 13th at 8:30 p.m. CST. Alabama will also host a team of all-stars sponsored by EA Sports November 8 at 7 p.m. in its second and final exhibition game. Incidentally, former Tide player Schea Cotton is on the roster for that EA Sports team.
Several Debuts Will Take Place Thursday NightThursday night marks the Alabama debut for both coaches and players. Favorite son T.R. Dunn makes his UA coaching debut as a first-year assistant after powering his way to All-American status during his 1974-77 UA playing career. The Birmingham native averaged 11.2 career points a game at Alabama (1,247 career points) and went on to play 14 seasons in the NBA. The 2001 Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Inductee and 2001 SEC Legend also coached in the NBA from 1991-99 and then became head coach for the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA. He joined the Tide staff in the spring of 2001.
And from that same basketball mecca backyard of Charlotte came first year assistant Orlando Early. Early, a 1990 Gardner-Webb graduate, was an assistant for UNC Charlotte from 1998-2001 before joining the Tide's staff in the spring. He's also coached at his Alma Mater as well being the Associate Head Coach at Western Carolina from 1995-98.
Two players will likely make their playing debut, two more will make their bench debut in dress clothes. Memphis freshman guard Earnest Shelton, who averaged 27 points a game as a senior at White Station High School, and guard Maurice "Mo" Williams, a McDonald's All-American out of Jackson, Mississippi who averaged 26.9 points and 9.0 assists , are both expected to get a lot of playing time this season.
Partial qualifier Lucky Williams, a 6-4 guard/forward who played at Birmingham's Central Park Christian (Rod Grizzard's Alma Mater) last season will not play this season. A recent addition to the Tide squad (his first practice was October 22) is Birmingham guard Jason Reese. Reese played at UAB and has to sit out the season as a transfer. He is a walkon.
Two Former Walkons Debut as Success StoriesTwo men who are living examples that hard work does indeed pay off are former Tide walkons Antoine Pettway and Solomon Davis. Pettway, a sophomore two-time state champion from Alberta, loved the Crimson Tide so much that he was willing to walk on the team last season and prove his mettle, declining scholarship offers in order to live his dream of playing for the Tide. His work ethic and ability to hold his own on the court proved valuable for the team---he led the team in scoring at Ole Miss with his 19 points. Already in school on an academic scholarship, Pettway was rewarded with an athletic scholarship this past summer.
And Mark Gottfried talked senior forward Solomon Davis of Mobile out of his self-imposed retirement. Davis, out of LeFlore High School, was a redshirt walkon as a true freshman in 1999. He played on the team in 2000 (as a walkon—he, too, has been on academic scholarship as he's a presidential merit scholar) but decided to retire after that season to concentrate on his tougher courses in management information systems (computers). Staying in peak shape during his year off and joining his old teammates in pickup games, his conditioning and his work ethic enticed Mark Gottfried to talk Davis out of retirement. He signed him to a one-year scholarship. That's all Davis needs as he (and Travis Stinnett) graduates in May 2002.
All Five Starters ReturnThe team that produced the youngest starting lineup in the top 25 last season (all five were sophomores) returns those men this season as experienced veterans. Leading the way of that all-junior quintet is 6-8, 260 pound forward Erwin Dudley. Dudley was the only player in the Southeastern Conference who averaged in double digits in both scoring (14.4) and rebounding (10.0) last season. He was 2nd team All-SEC. Back is first team
All-SEC guard Rod Grizzard, 6-8, 200, who led the SEC in scoring up until the last week—he got squeezed out by three-tenths of a point at the finish line. Grizzard averaged 17.0 points last year.
Back, too is guard Terrance Meade, a 6-2, 190 pound native of Scottsboro. He averaged 10.8 points last year.
Two players who spent the 2000 season injured, once healthy busted into the starting lineup. Junior guard Travis Stinnett jumped into the lineup late in the season after not having played since his senior year in high school in 1998—and ended up as a 14-game starter at guard. And Kenny Walker emerged through the rust accumulated after missing 10 games his freshman season with a broken leg and started in 34 of his 36 games last year. He averaged 6.7 points and left his calling card in West Lafayette, Ind., where he scored 24 points against Purdue in the NIT win that sent Alabama to the 2001 NIT Final Four.
How About These Starting Strings?Junior Erwin Dudley has started in every game of his Alabama career, 65 straight. (That doesn't count exhibition games, those he's started in ALL of those as well). Terrance Meade has started in 63 of 64 games he's played in, and Rod Grizzard has started in 60 of his 65 career games.
Plenty of Doubleheaders, But Only One Regular Season TournamentWhile Alabama will play in four "Classics" this fall, only of those events has a true tournament format. Alabama opens the season November 13-14 when it hosts the Guardians Classic's first two rounds. There are four regional sites (Iowa, Memphis, Missouri are the other three), and the winner from each of those four sites advances to the Guardians Classic Championship (two games guaranteed) in Kemper Arena in Kansas City.
Mark Gottfried will play against the team that launched his coaching career, UCLA, when Alabama plays the Bruins in the John Wooden Classic. That game is part of a doubleheader in The Pond in Anaheim. (Arizona and Purdue play in the doubleheader). Alabama travels to the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., to play Temple in the Jimmy V. Classic. Kentucky will play Duke in the other half of that doubleheader. And in December Alabama will play Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl Classic, an event that also pits LSU against Miami.
AIA a Familiar FoeAlabama played Athletes in Action last season, hosting AIA on November 15, 2000. Alabama won the game 95-87. Guard Rod Grizzard led that win with 25 points, making seven of his nine shots attempted from the field, including four of six attempted from 3-point range. Gerald Wallace, now with the Sacramento Kings, scored 22 points. Returners Erwin Dudley scored 13 points and had 12 rebounds, Terrance Meade scored 11 points and Kenny Walker scored 10 points. AIA was led in the loss by Reed Rawlings' 29 points.
Gottfried Once Wore the AIA UniformWhile Doc Martin is the most recent Tide player to join an AIA tour, having toured with AIA through the Ivory Coast this past summer, the man who leads the Tide also once wore the AIA uniform. Tide head coach Mark Gottfried played for AIA in 1987-88 following his graduation from Alabama. He opted to tour with AIA over a possible NBA future as he was drafted in the NBA 7th round by the Detroit Pistons. In the summer of 1989---while he was an assistant coach at UCLA---Gottfried coached an AIA tour of Greece and Poland. His team went 10-3 on that tour.
AIA Tour Celebrates 35th SeasonThis marks the 35th season of touring for the AIA Men's Basketball team. The AIA team is made up of professional players and former college stars. In addition to playing at Mt. Vernon Nazarene and Kentucky Christian to start the tour, this team will make stops at 15 Division I schools, two of those coached by former Crimson Tide players, Alabama and Indiana which is coached by former Tide player Mike Davis. The tour also includes stops at Stanford and Kentucky.
The roster includes Ronnie Grandison a 10 year NBA veteran forward who graduated from New Orleans in 1987, and David Daniels, a point guard who is in his eighth season at AIA and has a career that includes playing on Canada's 2000 Olympic basketball team.
AIA "consists of players committed to striving for excellence and character on and off the court." The team typically has its pre-game meal with the host team and shares with the host team in that team's lockerroom immediately following the game. One player typically makes a presentation or profession of faith at halftime of the game. This year's team will also distribute magazines called "Fallen, But Not Forgotten," a special edition designed as a gift for residents of New York City following the September 11 attacks.