NCAA Rule Change Helps Bama

Alabama women's basketball head coach Stephany Smith couldn't go into many specifics about her team Tuesday as she met with the media to preview the opening of fall practice Friday, but things have come a long way since she was hired in May.

"Those first few months were pretty tough," Smith said. "It has been nothing but pure joy in the past six weeks."

"Pure joy" because the NCAA changed its rules to allow more interaction between players and coaches from the time the fall semester starts until the first official practice Friday evening. In women's basketball, the rules have expanded to allow up to four hours per week on the court, and for the full team to be able to participate, instead of groups of four or less previously allowed.

"I'm so glad we had the opportunity to be in there as a team because it would have been crazy being there on Friday not knowing what we know now," rising junior guard Kate Mastin said. "I really didn't know what to expect. Being able to have 'sort of' practice for the past few weeks. It's been different, but it's a good different."

Most of the specifics are still up in the air, however.

"We are celebrating small victories every day," Smith said. "One thing I know for certain is that we have the ability to defend. We will defend and we will push… Our success will come from getting more easy baskets than our opponents."

The squad will have its first real practice Friday at 7 p.m. at Shelton State. The NCAA does not allow practice before 7 p.m., and because the main floor of Coleman Coliseum will still be under construction, the men's team will be in the annex gym.

"It's undetermined today who that core group of players are that night in and night out are going to play for us," Smith said. "You usually don't know who they are going to be at this time, but you have some idea."

Thanks to the rules change, Mastin and her teammates now have a little better grasp on what to expect when they hit the floor.

"She's not going to beat around the bush with you," Mastin said. "She's going to let you know what she wants and how she wants it. She's going to tell you how it is. That's something I enjoy about her."

Smith was on the road most of the summer months recruiting. That hard work has paid off. Smith has six scholarships open for the upcoming signing period and expects to sign at least five players during the early period.

"We're really excited about the players we have (committed) and look forward to November 9 and getting them on paper," Smith said. "We've had a verbal commitment at every position."

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