Well Worth Watching

Alabama looked like a basketball team that's tank had run dry last Saturday as they struggled down the finish to a 68-57 loss on the road at Southeastern Conference frontrunner LSU, but it was another effort for an Alabama fan to be proud of.

The Crimson Tide had an open mid-week to refuel for the remaining SEC games. All except for Justin Jonus, who decided he'd had enough Monday and left the team.

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried was anxious to put the surprising Jonus departure to bed in talking with the media on Thursday, even as it appeared his players had done so long ago.

"I don't think they've messed a beat in that regard," Gottfried said. "Young people are very resilient they just walked in with a great attitude and went to work. There wasn't any talk about anything other than MSU. This team has a desire to play in the NCAA basketball tournament and I think they're going to do anything they can to reach that goal."

Freshman Richard Hendrix and his teammates weren't as surprised as the rest of us, one reason they processed the news quickly.

"I don't know necessarily if you'd say it was a surprise or anything," he said. "He was a good teammate. It would have been different if he would have been a person that people didn't really like. He wishes us the best and we wish him the best. It's just unfortunate he had to leave us at this time."

The disappointing Jonus' move out made way for the feel-good tale of Willie Watson, a Crimson Tide manager who has received a true promotion. Watson is now a squad member.

"He's a great young person," Gottfried said. "He's got a great attitude. He's willing to help anyway he can for sure. He'd like to get in a game one night, so we'll see."

Watson is a freshman from Sumter County in Livingston Alabama who thought he would be grabbing towels and chasing basketballs all season. Gottfried joked that "he's not getting his name on the back of the jersey yet. We'll have to wait on that."

Gottfried adopted the catchphrase "Adapt and Overcome," something he picked up on his summer trip to Kuwait, after Chuck Davis went down for the season. He's getting more mileage out of the phrase than he probably hoped for, but it is timely advice players have seemed to embrace.

"We're going to have to play the game like we were asked to when we were recruited to come here," Hendrix said. "It's nothing like I could have predicted, especially a year or two years ago when I committed and made my decision to come here. That's part of life, I guess. You're just going to have to forward. The only way you can determine the future is to work hard in the present and that's all I can do."

The adapting seems to be done, overcoming a tougher-than-normal out of conference schedule and a big numbers crunch won't be done without sacrifice, and more tired bodies as the season wears on.

"We took a few days off, which I thought was important to do. Rest is important this time of year with the numbers of guys we have and the minutes we're playing," Gottfried said. "The concentration was on keeping our legs fresh more than anything else."

Said Hendrix, "We feel that we still have enough talent to compete with anyone in the country. We don't need to have anyone to feel sorry for us that we're down in numbers and we lost a great player [in Davis] and whatnot. We're just going to suit up and be ready to play every game."

Suited up and ready to play will be seven available players on scholarship, and more importantly seven guys with a goal of being one of the most likely NCAA tournament teams in school history. That and the Willie Watson watch – will he play or won't he – will be worth showing up for the rest of the season.


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