Not A Great Day For Basketball News

Hopefully, it was not an omen. On what should have been a slow news day covering Alabama athletics, Crimson Tide Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried invited the media to lunch. It was a bad day to try to hold the attention of sportswriters and broadcasters with drama unfolding on the football front.

If Mark Gottfried was aggravated by the development, he didn't show it. Last year Alabama was just short of terrible, a 17-16 overall record, 5-11 Southeastern Conference mark. And now the Crimson Tide will be without its leading scorer (17.8 per game) and rebounder (10.1), Richard Hendrix, who has opted for the NBA draft rather than play his senior season at Bama. Also gone is the second-leading scorer, Mykal Riley, who averaged 14.8 points per game and had nearly half of Alabama's three-point field goals (Riley had 103, the rest of the team 129).

But like a major league baseball manager during spring training, Gottfried sees himself with a team that is currently undefeated...and probably going to get better.

There is good news, of course. Ronald Steele is back. Gottfried said, "I'm 100 per cent sure Ron Steele is going to be recovered, but until he goes out and shows it that will be a question mark." Steele is a 6-1 point guard who was out all of last year and most of the previous season with knee ailments.

Wing player Alonzo Gee is back as the leading returning scorer, 14.5 points per game in his junior season.

Both Steele and Gee tested the NBA waters and found them to be chilly. So they backed out of any draft dreams. Gottfried said they have great attitudes, that they are anxious to begin the process of making Alabama a winning basketball team.

Gottfried said he had nothing but good wishes for Hendrix. The Tide coach said he has seen Hendrix projected as possibly a late first round draft choice, but said his information from the NBA side is that Hendrix is more likely a second round pick, "but on draft day you never know. Hopefully Thursday [draft day] will be a great day for Richard," Gottfried said.

Looking to the future, Gottfried said he is hopeful incoming freshman JaMychal Green (6-9, 225) makes the 2008 USA Basketball under-18 team that will play in Argentina later this summer. Green and all other new and returning Tide players except Steele (who has already earned his degree), and newcomers Anthony Brock and Tony Mitchell, are in summer school and participating in off-season work. Brock and Mitchell will be enrolled in the second semester of summer school.

Gottfried noted that Green is not as strong as Hendrix, but said the freshman is "more agile." Still, he is not expected to immediately replace Hendrix from a statistical standpoint.

Gottfried said that Green, returning starter Demetrius Jemison (6-7, 234), Yamene Coleman (6-9, 236) and Justin Knox (6-9, 236) were all possibilities for the two inside post positions. "I told Justin, ‘Your life changed today,' on the day Richard told us he would not be returning," Gottrfried said.

One of the newcomers is junior college transfer Anthony Brock, a 5-9 guard who Gottfried said was signed this spring when Steele's future availability was not known. Gottfried said there is a chance some guard will be redshirted this year. He said there is also the possibility that Alabama will have a two-guard front as part of its offense.

Gottfried discussed the new three-point line for college basketball, one foot longer than previous. He thinks that relatively little difference will show up as players are forced back from a "comfort zone" line they have known all their basketball lives. He said he expects teams to have to spend a lot of time identifying who can make the trey and that defensive strategy will be based in great part on the opponents' three-point shooting success.

Although early national polls don't mention many SEC teams, Gottfried said he expects the league to be strong.

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