Gottfried's Tide Ready To Lace 'em Up

Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried says his team may be playing at a faster pace this season in the absence of now-Golden State Warrior Richard Hendrix. "What we've got to d o is try to utilize what we have. Hopefully this year, we can score more and play faster," Gottfried said.

Alabama officially opens basketball practice Friday. Mark Gottfried told a contingent of the state's media at his first press conference of the school year, "Everybody's excited. I am and I think our players are. Our team has worked hard over the summer and over the fall. We've got some young guys that will have to step up early, and we've got some veterans, too.

"We still have a lot of work to do to get there, but I' m excited about the potential."

There were few surprises discussed at the meeting, other than that, for the first time in 11 seasons as Alabama's head coach, Gottfried will close practices, at least for now, when team workouts start Friday night. "I thought last year, at times, we had a little bit too much going on in the gym. Its nothing dramatic," he said. Gottfried added that too many people in the stands at practices seemed to be blogging on lap tops, including many he did not know.

Many wondered who would be the Tide's designated 3-point shooters, what with the new, longer shot that goes into effect this season. "On our team, Ron (Ronald Steele) has been a great 3-point shooter. Brandon Hollinger shot a great (.431) percentage last year. With our team and that line, that's going to be a little bit of a learning curve."

Of course, there were questions about the health of Steele, a fifth-year senior who took a medical red shirt last year. I think Ron Steele's going to be ready to go, right when we start," Gottfried said. "If you were to ask him, I think he'd tell you he's 100 per cent. In the workouts we've done, he's been fine. He hasn't complained of soreness.

"We need to let him get back in the flow. I don't know that on day one of the season, he's going to be playing like an All-American. I think he‘ll be a lot better as he gets games under his belt. I don‘t think Ron Steele needs o be a 40-minute a game guy like he was three years ago."

Steele has averaged 10.3 points and 4.5 assists over a three-year career, though he played hurt most of the 2006-2007 season.

Steele's fellow senior Alonzo Gee (6-6, 219) may be on the verge of a break-out year according to Gottfried. "I think that Alonzo has improved his ball-handling, and his shooting percentage from the 3-point line He's done a lot this summer. I want him to be a great defender this year. He's physically capable of that." Gee's career averages are 11.9 points, 5.1 boards.

With Hendrix gone, several big men will be counted on to shoulder the load, including 6-9, 220-pound JaMychal Green of Montgomery.

"JaMychal has to earn it. You've also got Yamene Coleman, Demetrius Jemison, and Justin Knox," Gottfried said. "When Richard decided to stay in the draft, that day there was a different attitude among all those big guys. When those guys know, when there's an opportunity for significant minutes, there's a little bit more pep in the step all summer long.

"Justin Knox has made the best impression (in individual workouts). He's really improved his game. You don't just replace a guy (like Hendrix) who's been getting 20 (points) and 10 (boards) with just one guy. "

While Gottfried hinted that Steele is the primary point guard, he's not discounting at all a lineup featuring both Steele and juco transfer Anthony Brock. He also said potential backups for Gee at small forward include Mikhail Torrance, Senario Hillman and freshman Andrew Steele, Ron‘s younger brother.

"I think that Senario has been really, really good this summer," said Gottfried. "He's a human highlight film. I've told people he's a 6-foot-1 Gerald Wallace. Now that he's got a year under his belt, He feels a lot more confident. He can go out there and play with reckless abandon. I think he's going to have a really, really terrific year." Hillman came off the bench in 32 games last year to average 4.3 points.

The Tide finished 17-16 last year, and was not in post-season play. Gottfried has said repeatedly in pre-season interviews that he realizes the team must get back to the NCAA tourney.

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