Gee Whiz

Alabama Head Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried likes to challenge his players: in the classroom, in their everyday lives and on the basketball court.

Late in a practice last week Gottfried issued a challenge to sophomore Alonzo Gee, calling on him to "Adjust!" after being called for a charging foul in scrimmage work toward the end of practice. Gee's team wore white jerseys, while three other established Tide starters, Ron Steele, Richard Hendrix and Jermareo Davidson wore crimson.

On ensuing trips down the court for the white team, Gee responded with two driving lay-ups, avoiding contact with the defender each time, two three-pointers - one from either wing - and two free throws as time ran down on the scrimmage. The white team came out on top.

"He looks like he's been caged down for a year and he's loose all of a sudden," Davidson said.

At Southeastern Conference Media Days last week, Gottfried indicated that the outburst had been no fluke over the first two weeks of practice. Before practice began, he said he had three starters (Hendrix, Steele, Davidson) that he was comfortable with, but was looking for wing men. Like Gee himself, the number of players that has earned a certain level of comfort with Gottfried has grown.

"I think there are four guys in Steele, Gee, Hendrix and Davidson that would be hard to get out of there," Gottfried said. "I think Alonzo has stepped forward. He's a better basketball player than he was a year ago."

Point guard Ronald Steele called Gee "hands down" the best athlete on the court. From the time he stepped on campus last season (when he was already pretty athletic), Gee has grown an inch and a half (from 6-5 to 6-6 ½), gained 20 pounds (from 205 to 225) and reduced his body fat from 17 per cent to 4 per cent.

As Gee walked off the floor for a post-practice interview, Bama basketball strength and conditioning coach Terry Jones said "That's one of my good ones right there. He's a hard worker. All we have to do is get the shyness out of him."

Gee seemed to be getting better at that, too.

"I ain't really vocal, but my teammate Jermareo, he's got me talking a lot," Gee said. "I've got more confidence than I had last year. It was a big adjustment from high school to college basketball, to the crowd, the classroom and everything. I have a lot of confidence now. I just feel like I can play."

Last year Gee played in every single game, starting seven. He averaged 8.6 points per game and 3.4 rebounds. One area of offensive improvement sought for Gee is in three-point shooting, where last year he was 24 of 81 (.296 PCT). It was a point of emphasis for Gee over the summer.

"I don't think Alonzo was labeled as a shooter but I know for a fact he can shoot," Davidson said. "If they double me it will leave him open for a three, so they will soon have to decide if they want to give us three or two."

To be sure, the game hasn't been mastered for the young sophomore. One area Gottfried talked about was on defense. He's looking for a player who can be counted on to defend the opposition's best player. Last year that was Jean Felix.

"Last year Felix, he guarded every one of those guys," Gottfried said, "and I'm not sure we've got that guy right now. Hopefully Alonzo Gee can become that."

Bama's Crimson-White scrimmage is Monday night at 7 p.m. Gee will probably have a few offensive exploits – they're quickly becoming expected of him – but defensive effort and ability will be the true test for the sophomore.

"Mainly what the coaches stress to me is defense, defense, defense," Gee said. "They don't stress nothing else to me. I want to be a good defensive player. I'm an all-around player. When I do all that stuff I will feel a little more comfortable about saying I'm in that (starting) spot. Right now I don't feel like I'm in that spot yet."

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