Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried likes what he's seen of his squad so far. "The returning players have done a good job of bringing the younger guys along. The good news is that the young players don't have to be spectacular. We're finally getting to the point where the programs feeds itself."
In national Player of the Year candidate Erwin Dudley, Gottfried has a powerful inside player--capable of scoring and rebounding in bunches--around which to build a team. Add in sophomore sensation Mo Williams at the point, and the ingredients are there for another championship run.
Now up to a rock-solid 260 pounds, Dudley is a strong and agile athlete. Night in and night out, the power forward/center can be counted on to score and sweep the glass. His teammates have taken to calling him "Double-Double," referring to his penchant for filling up the box score.
Completely healthy and playing with fresh legs, Dudley was dominant in last week's game versus EASports.
Only a sophomore, Williams is already among the premier point guards in the nation. About the only weakness in his game last season was a somewhat low shooting percentage, and after working hard on his shot this summer Williams has been blistering the nets.
Kenny Walker may have the most potential offensively of all the Bama starters, but he needs to improve his consistency game in and game out. Not as powerful as Dudley, Walker nevertheless is effective around the basket. Though his game appeared rusty, Walker was aggressive on the inside in Bama's first exhibition game.
Like Williams, senior shooting guard Terrance Meade hopes to improve his shooting percentage. Capable of filling it up from long range, Meade too often gets mired in scoring slumps. But even when his shots aren't falling, the veteran athlete finds ways to help his team.
Though Kennedy Winston will likely have something to say about it when he is cleared to play, for now Earnest Shelton is slated to start at small forward/guard. Decent sized and with an outstanding set-up shot, Shelton's ability to hit the open shot from the outside will be key this season.
Antoine Pettway and Demetrius Smith provide excellent guard depth off the bench. Normally the back-up point guard, Pettway will often team with Williams, creating match-up problems for opposing defenses. "At times we were very good last year with Mo and Pettway on the floor together," Gottfried said.
A former football player, Smith is willing to mix it up with bigger athletes on the inside and skilled enough to provide minutes at either the 1 or 2 spot.
Whenever forward Reggie Rambo played last year, he was effective. Rambo will never be anyone's offensive star, but he's capable of banging with taller players, allowing Dudley and Walker to steal some minutes on the bench.
At 6-8, 230 pounds (Dudley only weighed 218 his first year), true freshman Chuck Davis should see plenty of playing time this year. Athletically, he's still very raw, especially on offense. But he has the wide shoulders and long arms necessary to develop into a good rebounder. Don't expect Davis to take over any games this season, but he should be able to spell Dudley and Walker on the inside in small stretches. "Chuck has to get rid of some baby fat," Gottfried said. "He's got a 7-2 wing span. He's a smart player. We're hoping to get valuable minutes from him."
Emmett Thomas is only 6-4, but he has the long arms of a taller athlete. A smooth, almost effortless shooter, the junior college transfer will provide points off the bench. Thomas' versatility will allow Coach Gottfried to be flexible in his substitutions. "Emmett is more ready to play than the other newcomers," Gottfried said.
Fans have heard good things about Lucky Williams from practice, but his college debut will be delayed 14 games due to an NCAA suspension. When the Nigerian native does return to the lineup, he'll bring strength, defense and rebounding to the floor. His offensive game needs lots of work, but Williams can be a "shut down" defender. "He's a fierce competitor," Gottfried said. "Defensively and rebounding he's ready. His offense is still off. He's undersized to play on the interior, but he can guard just about anybody on the floor."
At this point Alabama compliance officials are still investigating, but it's believed likely that true freshman Kennedy Winston will also have to sit out several games due to improper benefits associated with his high school AAU team. In practice Winston has shown flashes of the talent that made him the top prospect in Alabama last year.
He's just a freshman and will need time to adjust, but his ability has been compared favorably with last year's starting small forward, Rod Grizzard, who is now playing for the NBA Developmental League team in Mobile. "Kennedy brings a lot to the table," Gottfried said, "especially offensively."
Due to his lanky frame, Evan Brock (6-9, 190) was talked about as a redshirt candidate. But with long arms and broad shoulders, the freshman forward should easily add bulk and strength to develop into an SEC player. "Evan needs time in the weight room and at the training table," Gottfried said. "But he's eager to learn. He's like a sponge."
Transfer walk-on Jason Reese (6-2, 200) suffered a broken nose Wednesday in practice, but once recovered he appears capable of handling mop-up duty off the bench.