A Season of Questions
Even though some of these questions and others like them cannot be answered now, I will attempt to answer some by describing the current personnel as returning starters, possible starters, newcomers and support players.
The returning starters of Richard Hendrix, Mykal Riley, and Alonzo Gee provide a good nucleus to start with (more than some teams have). This trio combined for almost 40 points, 19 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a game last year.
I expect this group to play a lot of minutes whether it's the high-post offense or a four guard lineup. Hendrix should demand the role of team leader not just because of his physical statue, but because of his experience and knowledge of the game. Hendrix can become the coach on the floor while directing the less experienced players on where to be on both ends of the court.
At his low post position, Hendrix will have a good view of the floor in regards to help situations, pick announcements, and offensive setups. Hendrix has shed a few pounds in order to increase on his minutes played from last season (27.6). That should also help in his foul troubles with better stamina and quickness. For someone who makes over 60-percent of his shots, you want him on the floor more.
Riley and Gee will have similar roles as in shooting three pointers, running the lanes, and defending the other team's best player(s). For Riley, he will continue the role of long range assassin as he led the team in three point baskets made (77 for 37) last season.
Gee, on the other hand, will still be counted on as a slasher with his carved frame. If Gee is successful in those drives to the lane, it will open up easier opportunities for his jumper.
Both of these long, athletic players should pick up where they left off at when they led the team in combined steals last year (82) while cutting off passing lanes. Their pick-pocket skills and lane running ability should bode well in a four guard lineup.
This is a long list of players, because of the two possible offensive sets. When Alabama utilizes the traditional high-post offense, look for Yamene Coleman or Demetrius Jemison to be given the opportunity to play along side Hendrix in the post.
With Coleman's length, look for him to provide much needed rebounding and shot blocking support. Jemison also provides rebounding (4th on the team last season with 107), shot-blocking (4th on the team last season with 13) and free-throwing shooting (72-percent from the line) while only playing 13 minutes a game last season.
In both of these offensive sets Alabama will definitely need a point guard, and it looks like Coach Mark Gottfried has tabbed Mikhail Torrance for now.
Torrance is a BIG guard listed at 6-5 and nearly 200 pounds which could cause some match-up problems for opposing teams. But even more importantly is his ability to make plays with both hands. Torrance shot 85.7-percent from the free throw line last season which you need from that position.
In order for Torrance to keep his position, he will be judged by his assist to turnover ratio (2:1 or better is what you want to shoot for).
The last two players to discuss here is Justin Tubbs and Brandon Hollinger. Both of these guys should see valuable playing time in both of these offensive sets, especially the four guard lineup.
Tubbs and Hollinger add spark when you need it by knocking down the three. Last season the two combined to shoot 41.6 percent from the arc which is best among returning players. They both also bring defensive intensity, which according to Coach Gottfried, will earn you a lot of playing time this season.
Rated the 13th best recruiting class in the country by Scout in 2007, this trio should see some playing time as well. This group got some much needed experience on the team's Canada trip, and it also gave the coaches a chance to evaluate them while playing with their new teammates.
The highest ranked nationally of this bunch is Senario Hillman at No.42. This jumping jack will steal you blind with his swarming defense. Hillman led his Wilkinson County High School in Irwinton, GA to the class 1A state title with a record of 32-1. For his effort, Hillman was awarded Middle Georgia Player of the Year along with 4th team Parade All-American.
The next highest ranked commitment nationally for Bama is Rico Pickett at No.71. Pickett is also being mentioned by Coach Gottfried for getting playing time at the point. Pickett averaged 20 points, five rebounds, eight assists, and five steals per game last season for Decatur High School in Decatur, AL.
In leading his team to the semi-finals of the state playoffs in 5A, Pickett was named to the 2007 Super All-State Basketball Team given by The Birmingham News.
Justin Knox, who was the No.87 ranked player in the nation, was also named to that team. Knox was a late arrival to the recruiting scene while playing on the AAU circuit the summer before his senior year. Knox averaged 16 points, 16 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game last season as it led his team to the semi-finals of the state playoffs in 4A. He is a much needed addition for a team that is thin on post players.
Even though this group will see limited minutes, they still deserve mentioning here. This trio of Kyle Sellers, Greg Cage, and John Dill provide much needed practice players. Everyday these players do their best to simulate the opposing team's offenses and defenses, and in some cases try to emulate the opposing team's best player. They work so hard for very little recognition.
With questions still remaining, the players above will soon provide some answers. While this team lacks in size and experience, they should make up for with athleticism and speed. The theme for Alabama this season is "Defensive Intensity" which should make the Tide competitive for this coming season.
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