Alabama head basketball coach Mark Gottfried, who coached the Crimson Tide to its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance this season, was the keynote speaker.
"I'm really proud of this team," Gottfried announced to the crowd of about 400. "I'm proud of what they were able to accomplish."
Gottfried then told the story about how Alabama's season could have taken a downward spiral when senior All-Southeastern Conference forward Chuck Davis went down with a season-ending knee injury in the January 7 SEC opener against Ole Miss.
"That happened on a Saturday. On Monday at 2:30 when the came to practice, I could a bounce in their step. They walked into practice and it took me about five minutes to realize that they might just do something special, and they certainly did. Each one of the men you see sitting up here rose to the challenge. I believe when tough things happen your true character comes out, and we saw this team's true character come out. I am so proud of them, what they did and who they are inside," Gottfried said.
The team presented its annual awards at this event. Freshmen Alonzo Gee and Brandon Hollinger were co-winners of the Robert "Rah Rah" Scott Christian Leader Award, an award that honors the memory of former Tide basketball star and assistant coach Robert Scott who passed away, a victim of cancer, while coaching on Alabama's staff on May 9, 2000. Scott's wife Cynthia Scott was among the crowd.
Ronald Steele was the night's biggest winner, taking home five awards as well as being lauded for being named to the Academic All-Southeastern Conference team for the second year in a row as well as being a first team All-SEC selection and an AP All-American, Honorable Mention. Steele, who was the SEC stats champion in free throw percentages and minutes played, won team awards in Free Throw Percentages (89.2), Steals (45), 3-Point Field Goal Percentages (41.2) and Scoring Average (14.3). Jermareo Davidson, who was cited for being named All-SEC and all-district, won two awards as the team's leader in two statistical categories, Blocked Shots (58) and was a co-winner with Steele as Alabama's leading scorer with his 14.3 points a game.
Chuck Davis, who was a John R. Wooden National Player of the Year candidate as well as a preseason All-SEC pick before he sustained a season-ending knee injury in the SEC opener in January, won two awards. His coaches honored him as a team's scoring leader as he was averaging 16.5 points prior to the injury and a top field goal percentage shooter who averaged 56.3% of his shots from the field in the 13 games he played.
Freshman Richard Hendrix was the team's stats champion in field goal percentages for making 55.7% of his shots from the field. He was also lauded for being named to the SEC Coaches Freshman All-SEC team.
Senior Evan Brock won the team's "Hustle Award" for his work ethic day in and out, and the coaching staff deemed senior Jean Felix its Defensive MVP. Guard Greg Cage, who is a national merit scholar, won the team's Hayden Riley Scholarship Award for his outstanding work in the classroom. Also noted at the banquet were Alabama's two Academic All-SEC award winners, Ronald Steele and Chuck Davis.
"There are only 13 teams in the nation who have competed in the last five straight NCAA tournaments, and we are one of them," said Gottfried. "I am proud of that, proud to be one of those 13."
Gottfried and Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore both lauded the basketball team's work in the classroom and the graduates it is producing, a number that rises to 20 of 20 in its last seven senior classes as Davis graduated in December and Jean Felix and Brock will graduate in May.
"We all want to win," Gottfried told the crowd of his 2005-06 squad which finished 18-13 overall, second in the SEC's Western Division at 10-6 in league play. "You want to win, you want our team to win, but you also want to be proud of your team, who you are cheering for. These men have represented the University of Alabama with absolutely the most class you can have. They achieve in their academics and are constantly going out and volunteering in the community. They play hard and they are determined to all be graduates. I'm proud to be their coach, and I'm so proud to know them."