And while many of the key members of the Tide team that went 20-13 and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Basketball Tournament will return next year, there was no question that a crowd of some 1,500 knew it was saying thanks and goodbye to the heart and soul of the squad. Antoine Pettway received three post-season awards and at least that many standing ovations at the annual Alabama Basketball awards reception sponsored by the Tuscaloosa Tipoff Club.
Pettway, a point guard who walked on at Alabama, was winner of the Guy Lee Turner Award, given to the team's best defensive player; the award for most steals in the season; and the award as the team's assist leader.
Sophomore post player Chuck Davis was honored for leading the team in field goal percentage and as winner of the Jerry Harper Rebounding Award.
Freshman post player Jermareo Davidson won the award for leading the team in blocked shots, sophomore wing player Kennedy Winston for being tops in tops in scoring, junior wing player Earnest Shelton for best free throw percentage, and senior wing Emmett Thomas for best three-point field goal percentage.
Sophomore wing player Evan Brock was presented the Hustle Award for his work in practice and games, while freshman guard Justin Jonas was winner of the Hayden Riley Scholarship Award.
Scholarship was almost as prominent as athletic achievement in the program. All four seniors–Pettway, Thomas, guard Demetrius Smith, and post player Reggie Rambo–will be graduated from The University in May. Including this group, in the past four years Coach Mark Gottfried's teams have had 14 men who have completed their senior seasons of basketball eligibility. All 14 have earned their degrees.
But it was the remarkable season that was revisited in talk and videotape. The team that was picked to finish fifth in the six-team Southeastern Conference Western Division had wins over the likes of Wisconsin and Charlotte and Oregon in pre-conference play, then in SEC competition turned in a monumental upset of fourth-ranked Mississippi State in Starkville as well as sweeping Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee.
But it was in the NCAA Tournament that Alabama became one of the great national stories. After getting by a very good Southern Illinois team, Bama upset number one-ranked Stanford and defending national champion Syracuse before finally being ousted by eventual national champion Connecticut.
Gottfried said, "This team loved a hard battle, and I'm very, very proud of them."