Some Circumstances Beyond Coach's Control

Discussing personal tragedy in the context of its affect on a team's performance is callous, but ignoring the ramifications it continues to impose on the Alabama basketball team does not make it go away.

Jermareo Davidson returned to Alabama's lineup last Saturday, one blocked shot away from a triple double in a Crimson Tide victory over South Alabama. Davidson has practiced only sporadically with his teammates all winter because 1.) he was spending time with his brother who was a shooting victim, 2.) his girlfriend was killed in an auto accident in Atlanta where she and Davidson were visiting his brother and 3.) missed classes for these personal reasons which forced him to withdraw from his UA classes in order to maintain NCAA eligibility.

The latest tragedy to shake up a member of the Alabama basketball team came Sunday night, when an Athens High School teammate of Richard Hendrix, Tank Beavers, was one of two people shot and killed in a Huntsville TGI Friday's restaurant Sunday night.

Again, the affect this has on a basketball team pales in comparison to those directly and horrifically touched by the tragic events. The Alabama basketball team has only received the ripple effect.

"We've had so many practice days when we don't know who is going to be out there," Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said Tuesday.

That includes more normal circumstances teams must overcome, like the injury-plagued early portion of the season had by Alabama's top returning player, point guard Ronald Steele. Steele suffered from knee tendonitis, and last week he suffered an ankle injury against Notre Dame to add injury to injury. His status is still up in the air for Alabama's game Wednesday night against NC State.

"I would like to know sooner than game time," Gottfried said. "We'll see if he's got any bounce in his step (in practice). We'll make a decision Wednesday, probably not before then. He wants to play."

Steele practiced some Monday afternoon. Gottfried said the tendonitis issue is gone, and now his left ankle is the only injury hampering him.

"He told me his knee is fine," Gottfried said. "If he gets through that maybe he's done with it. He really hasn't got a chance to play the whole year, in my opinion, not like he can."

Alabama plays its second big road game of the year Wednesday at 5:30 Central time. The game will be televised by Fox Sports Net. NC State is 7-2 on the season, with its only losses coming on the road at Virginia (67-62) and West Virginia (71-60). The Wolfpack has beaten Valparaiso (78-64) and Michigan (74-67).

"Your schedule always can help you when you're playing good tough teams," Gottfried said. "Like the game with Notre Dame, we didn't win it and there was a lot to be learned. I think our guys are excited, especially since we didn't play so well at Notre Dame."

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