"Athletes in Action is always a very experienced team," said Alabama junior starting forward Chuck Davis. "They showed us that last year. They have great players, guys who know how to play the game. They're going to always give you a good competitive game. We're anxious to get out there and play a team like that and see how we respond."
AIA brings an experienced team to Tuscaloosa, the final stop on its Midwest Team's fall tour. It is 11-2. The AIA team has added a couple of players after Wednesday night as well, combining some players from its North Carolina Team which has also been on tour playing colleges in late October and November. AIA is led in scoring by former Bethel College forward Eric Brand who is averaging 19.0 points and shooting 61 per cent (69-113) from the field in his 11 games on the tour. Guard Phil Gephart, formerly of Wilmington College, is also averaging in double digits at 10.9 points. Miami of Ohio's Fookie Seals leads in rebounding with an 11-game average of 6.3 boards.
AIA's roster includes South Alabama's Demetrius Williams and North Carolina State's Todd Fuller and is coached by Eric Nelson.
"First of all, Athletes in Action beat us last year so I hope our players remember that and respect that," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried who is on the AIA board and toured as an AIA player and coach. "These guys are all older players, ex-college players. They'll be as smart a team as we will play. They'll execute. It will be a good game."
Alabama has played exhibition games against AIA five times previously and has a 3-2 series edge. One of the losses came last season when Alabama fell 77-72 in exhibition play.
The Tide played its first of two exhibition games on Wednesday and won 104-50 against Stillman College, a provisional Division II team coached in his first season by former Tide All-America Leon Douglas. Alabama shot 69 percent in that game, making 40 of 58 shots from the field. The game drew Alabama's largest ever exhibition crowd with a paid attendance of 9,815.
Gottfried said, "I think there is a lot we drew from the Stillman game. Our defensive intensity, shot selection…those are things that we'll work on. We just want to make sure that last night's game (Stillman) and Saturday's game (AIA), we use them to our advantage in helping us improve. That's the purpose of these games, and that's what we are going to try to do."
Senior starting guard Earnest Shelton says he likes how Alabama played in its first test against someone not wearing Crimson, but he believes there is still much to do.
"I think we're going to have to get better defensively. I feel like everybody is going to have to pick up the slack better on the defensive end. But we saw some good things. We got off a lot of good shots. Everybody played hard. We're shooting the ball really well and that's something we can build off of, but we are just going to have to continue to get better. We know where we want to be at the end of the season, and I look forward to us continuing to get better."