Three-point shooting a strength

Like it or not--and there are plenty of basketball purists who still hate the idea--the three-point shot has revolutionized the game of college basketball. Forcing teams to defend the entire floor, the threat of the trey has leveled the playing field for many squads.

Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried, known as a long-range bomber himself during his playing days for Alabama, has always emphasized good three-point shooting. But this season the shot could become his team's mainstay.

Overflowing with quality bombers, the 2001-02 edition of the Crimson Tide finds itself woefully thin on the inside. "We've talked about being a real good shooting team," Gottfried said. "On our nights when we shoot it well, we can be a team that will stretch you out a little bit. We can make you guard us at the three-point line, which hopefully will help us down inside."

Meade led all Bama scorers last Thursday with 21 points on 67 percent shooting.

Erwin Dudley (6-8, 240) and Kenny Walker (6-9, 190) are Bama's only proven threats on the inside. But Gottfried finds himself blessed with a bevy of outside gunners. Paced by point machine Rod Grizzard, who led the SEC in scoring for most of last season, the Alabama shooters will not be shy about stepping behind the three-point arc this season.

Alabama concludes its exhibition tonight, with a game against the EA Sport touring team. Tip-off is set for 7 pm (CT) at Coleman Coliseum.

Besides Grizzard, Terrance Meade, Travis Stinnett, Antoine Pettway, Demetrius Smith and newcomers Earnest Shelton and Maurice ‘Mo' Williams are also comfortable from long range. "We've got a team full of great shooters," Grizzard said. "Sometimes it's a contest among ourselves to see who can get the most. Most of the time we just like to shoot it."

In their first exhibition game versus Athletes in Action, the Bama shooters attempted 35 three-pointers, scoring at an impressive 48 percent rate. "If we can make 16 threes every game, that would be nice," Gottfried said afterwards with a laugh. "But I do think we have the type team that can make shots. I think that teams will have to come out and defend us 20 feet from the basket. Hopefully, we can continue to shoot it like that."

"Our offense is pretty much up to Coach," added Grizzard. "A lot of them dropped last Thursday. That's due to good coaching and good shooting drills day in and day out."

"I don't know if we'll take 30 or more three-point attempts every game," Gottfried said. "But I do think we have the type of team that on certain nights we can make shots."

Grizzard is a threat to score from almost any spot on the floor. (AllSport)

Actually, Grizzard struggled with his shot in the first game, going 3-of-7 on three-pointers, but only 6-of-15 overall. But fellow junior Terrance Meade took up the slack. Meade's 21 points led all scorers in the game, and his 56 percent three-point shooting made it look easy.

"I got a lot of wide-open looks," Meade said. "Mo (point guard Mo Williams) was looking for me, and my teammates were looking for me. After I hit a few shots it extended my confidence and I was able to hit more in the second half. It felt great."

"It was nice to see Terrance Meade shoot it," Gottfried said. "He told me after the game that he was back. He is very confident."

Meade has always been a quality shooter, but last season saw his average fall to only 10.8 points per game. "Meade will be the first one to admit that last year he just never got into a shooting rhythm," Gottfried said. "He did a great job this summer, and he's done a good job in practice. I want him to stay confident and shoot it. He needs to feel like when he's open that he's shooting the basketball."

Starting in his first game for Alabama, true freshman point guard Mo Williams set up Meade quickly with open looks at the basket. Gottfried explained; "It helps when you start off making a couple. That gets your confidence going."

Travis Stinnett paced the Tide squad last year with his .442 shooting from three-point range.

"I'm just glad that Mo and the rest of my teammates looked for me," Mead said. "I've been knocking them down in practice. Because of that, they had confidence in me to throw me the ball."

After last season's struggles, his performance may have caught some fans off guard. But Meade understands the shooters' mentality. "I'm never surprised when I shoot that well," he said. "Because I feel like I can shoot that way every time I go out there. That's the way you've got to be when you're a shooter."

Gottfried added; "We need Meade shooting the basketball. Last year when he really shot it well and scored, he gave us an additional scorer outside of Erwin and Rod. When he didn't shoot it well, we were hunting for that next guy. Terrance Meade needs to be a consistent scorer for us, because for the most part Dudley and Grizzard are going to score their points.

"We're a much better team when Terrance shoots the ball well."

It was only an exhibition game, but against the AIA squad seven different Bama shooters took advantage of the three-point arc. Besides Meade and Grizzard, true freshmen Shelton and Williams and veterans Stinnett, Pettway and Smith also chipped in from long range.

"I'll tell you something about basketball," Gottfried said. "When you make shots, that hides a lot of weaknesses."

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