Bama Basketball Ramping Up

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried and his top two returning players, Jermareo Davidson and Ronald Steele, fashioned their best wears Wednesday at Southeastern Conference basketball media days in Birmingham as players and coaches from Alabama, reigning national champion Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee showed up to preview the upcoming season.

Jermareo Davidson sits with reporters at SEC Media Days in Birmingham.

Gottfried, who at one point converted team manager Willie Watson to a full time member of the team to have enough players in practice, has a deep and talented team that some have even predicted as a Final Four squad.

"I think we're a little more established early on than we were last year," Gottfried said. "If you go back to the beginning of last year it wasn't until the beginning of January that we figured out how this team should really play and who should play. When you have new players it takes you a little while to figure out your team.

"With Chuck Davis' injury and then when Justin (Jonus) left the team, we figured out how this team needed to play. Early in the season we weren't there. We have a much better idea how we should play, who should play and what roles."

Alabama returns starters Steele, Davidson and sophomore forward Richard Hendrix to this year's team, and sophomore Alonzo Gee has asserted himself in the first two weeks of practice as a solid fourth starter.

"We're a lot further ahead of ourselves than we were last year," Gottfried said. "I don't know who the fifth guy would be. I really don't. I think there's a couple of different ways we could do it and we could change after a while."

Davidson started all 31 games Alabama played last year in the 18-13 season which finished with a second round loss in the team's fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. He finished last year averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds per game, was once thought.

Davidson, who declared for the NBA draft after his sophomore season before pulling his name out, was marked by many onlookers to take his chances with the draft after his junior season. Instead, he returned and is a on the Wooden Award's preseason watch list along with Steele and 48 other college players.

Gottfried said Davidson can help his draft potential this season by helping Alabama win.

"Guys at the next level, they know our team and they know our players," he said, "so I think he just needs to go out and have a great year. The more his team wins the more it's going to help him. I think he's aware of that. I think he's a lot more aggressive offensively. He became the primary option in the post (after Chuck Davis was injured last year.)"

Brandon Hollinger, a sophomore who was a part-time starter last year, is one direction Gottfried will look for his fifth starter. Others working for the starting spot are junior college transfer Mykal Riley and freshmen Mikhail Torrance, Justin Tubbs and Verice Cloyd.

"Like freshmen, on a Monday one of them probably plays a little bit better then on Tuesday someone else plays better," Gottfried said. "It's one of those where they're all doing a pretty good job and we'll see how they do when we get going."

Bama is scheduled to practice on Thursday, Friday and Sunday before its Crimson/White game on Monday night. Alabama's first exhibition game against Montevallo next Saturday has been set for a 5 p.m. tipoff. Bama's football game against Mississippi State that day is an 11:30 a.m. kickoff.

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