What a Difference a Decision Makes

Sometimes you hear the exclamation, "What a difference a season makes!" In this case, "What a difference a decision makes in two seasons!" That is what comes to mind when I compare Alabama basketball last season and this coming season.

Last year, expectations were high for the Tide, who came up short by one three point basket in the second round of the Big Dance. The winner, UCLA, eventually played in the national championship game in 2006.

For the person who almost hit that shot as time expired, the miss would eventually wear him down. With the immense number of minutes he played, coupled with many hours he practiced, that missed shot would take a toll on Ron Steele's knees.

The team had its high expectations, but Steele had his as well. He had already been awarded with the 2006 Pre-Season Associated Press First Team All American. The award would now make a hard worker work even harder.

As we know, Steele wanted to be close to perfect as possible. He wanted to prove he could earn such a lofty acknowledgement. So, he kept lacing up the shoes hoping he could help his team reach those expectations.

Instead, the team continued to look over their shoulders and asked the question many of us were asking as well, "Is Ron going to be able to play?"

This would be a concern at every team meeting, practice, and game about their floor leader. Coach Mark Gottfried stated he had never experienced a situation like that before, and he intends on it never happening again.

When Chuck Davis went down to a knee injury in 2005, the team knew he was not returning. That's the year Ron, Richard, and Jermareo "grew up" as I like to call it. We know what went on after that, and we also know what happened last season, too.

Last season, Mikhail Torrance, Justin Tubbs and Brandon Hollinger were not given the opportunity to "grow up". Now this season is the "grow up" season for Torrance, Tubbs, Hollinger, and two new-comers in Senario Hillman and Rico Pickett.

For the decision to redshirt Steele this coming season, some thought it was the end before the beginning. Soon after Steele's announcement, Alabama fell out of many pre-season Top 25 polls.

According to John Gasaway's "SEC Preview" of basketballprospectus.com, "Steele could have been 100 percent last year and Alabama would have still underperformed."

This article was the only one I read that made that comment. Most knowledgeable basketball junkies know that championships are won though the point guard position.

Ask yourself, "Does Ohio State play for the national championship last season without Mike Conley? Does Florida win back-to-back national titles without their floor leader Taurean Green?"

With national expectations gone for this season, the team members can now come together, play within themselves, and maybe surprise us.

Who is Alabama's floor leader this year? We don't know for sure yet. But one thing is for sure, whoever it is will know way before game time that he is to "step up" and be the "man."

That person will be prepared as the "quarterback" of the basketball team. For Steele, now the redshirt decision has his future in best interest. And for the future of this team (at least this coming season), the decision will have someone else's best interest in mind.

UA Media Relations: Basketball fans can get their first official look at the University of Alabama basketball team in a game-type situation on Tuesday, October 30 at 6 p.m. CT when the Crimson Tide hosts its annual Crimson and White game.

Admission is free. There will be a Halloween costume contest at halftime where the winning costumes will receive prizes, and after the game the Tide players and coaches will host an autograph session.

"This is an opportunity for us to further evaluate our team and for our players to do some of the things they've been working on since the first day of practice in front of a crowd in a game-like situation," said head coach Mark Gottfried.

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