No Starters Back For Tide Basketball

The Alabama basketball media guide says the 2009-2010 Crimson Tide team returns four starters. The new coach respectfully disagrees. "I have zero returning starters," said Anthony Grant at the SEC's Basketball Media Day in Birmingham Thursday. "I left those guys at VCU (his former employer)."

After three practices at the BJCC in Birmingham due to work being done at Coleman Coliseum, Alabama is back practicing in Tuscaloosa.

"It's like we have 12 freshmen," Grant said. "Sometimes, they look at me like I have two heads.

"We just need to focus every day on how hard we need to play, and take advantage of every practice."

"It's been high-flying, intense and up-and-down (the court)," said senior point guard Mikhail Torrance. "Coach Grant's style of play is my style. I love it. We‘re long and athletic, and we‘ve got the players who can defend."

Three guys who have a good shot at cracking that lineup were topics of discussion at various points during Grant's 45-minute chat with the print media: JaMychal Green, Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrance (who was present himself, at the next table).

"The press and the way we want to play half-court defense plays to Hillman's strengths," Grant said. "Offensively, by his ability to get to the rim and his aggressiveness, he's a guy that at 6-foot-1 can rebound for you, has the skill level to play on the perimeter, and be an effective guy with the way we play offensively."

Hillman is Bama's leading returning scorer after averaging 12.9 points per game during last year's 18-14 season. He also is Bama's top returning assist man after passing out 2.1 per contest.

Green, who has bulked up considerably, is still athletic as ever and fits Grant's system "very well."

Green averaged 10.3 points and 7.6 boards with seven double-doubles last year. The hope is that the strenuous off-season program of Grant will help Green stay out of foul trouble this season. Torrance says he has seen evidence of just that.

"(Green's) been wo rking hard in every aspect of his game," noted Torrance. "He's matured a lot. Last year, he had a problem getting in foul trouble. We've really emphasized with him just being in condition, and our new strength coach (Andy Weigel, brought in by Grant) has done a great job with us, just getting us in tip-top shape."

That kind of shape is required to play Grant's demanding style, which includes sometimes pressing 94 feet, and more often than not running on offense. That suits the heck out of Torrance.

"It's been fun," said the senior point guard. "I feel good. I feel on top of my game right now. Coach Grant does a great job instilling confidence. He watched film with me, just to help me get better. He's a point guard's coach.

"It's going to be really important that I get everything down. My teammates are going to be really looking for me to do the job."

There are four newcomers who are battling for playing time. Torrance gave a brief assessment of each, based on pick-up games, off-season individual workouts, and the first five practices.

Juco transfer forward Chris Hines (6-8, 220): "He's an aggressive big man who can really rebound. We actually played AAU together, so I was really familiar with him. He has an outside game, too. Stuff like that really ties into winning."

Juco transfer guard Charvez Davis (6-3, 190): "He really can shoot it. He was a juco shooter." Davis nailed 163 shots behind the arc at Okaloosa-Walton CC the past two years.

Freshman swingman Tony Mitchell: "He's 6-6, and he can really jump and rebound. He can shoot it, too. He's thinner than Alonzo (Gee) was as a freshman, but just as strong. You'll see when we start playing. He can REALLY jump!"

Freshman point guard Ben Eblen (6-1, 180), who Torrance says will push him and senior Anthony Brock for minutes; "He's just a solid point guard. He's a true point guard who looks to pass first. He only shoots when he has to, when he's wide open. Just a solid player."

Justin Knox (6-9, 240, junior) and Andrew Steele, a 6-3, 215-pound defensive specialist, will both also push for playing time, but like Grant tells his team: "We've got 12 freshmen."

The Tide will continue practicing as it prepares for it's first exhibition game Nov. 4 against Montevallo at Coleman Coliseum.

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