Catching Up With Former Tider

Alonzo Gee was not drafted by an NBA franchise after completing his Alabama basketball eligibility last season. The San Antonio Spurs soothed his initial disappointment by signing him to their Las Vegas Summer League roster. A brief audition with the Minnesota Timberwolves ended with his release. Hope to pursue his dream was resurrected with the NBA Development League's November draft.

Alonzo Gee, a 6-6 athletic swingman, was the sixth player chosen in the first round by the Austin Toros, the Spurs' affiliate.

'BAMA Magazine was able to visit with the former Alabama Crimson Tide star on a Saturday in February at the Mass Mutual Center, home of the Springfield Armor.

He is averaging slightly over 20 points per game and almost seven boards per contest.

Although he scored only 14 points, the evening's performance against Springfield was vintage Gee. The poker faced assassin displayed his full arsenal of offensive weapons. A first period three-point attempt hoisted from the baseline tickled nothing but twine. His boyish grin camouflages the tight end physique enabling the powerful patented drives to the basket warranting eight free throws during the course of the game. Receiving a pass in the left corner beyond the three-point arc, astonished defenders gazed helplessly as two baby dribbles to the goal preceded the soaring move resulting in a two-handed rim rattling dunk silencing the raucous home crowd.

Gee's proficiency for penetration fits well in a league legislated for encouraging goal accessibility. "I think it's easier in this league because of the defensive three second rule. In college your help side has already shifted over and you'll get a charge," he chuckled. Still the zeal to dribble drive into the heart of the defense produced a few of the turnovers blemishing his stat sheet. Laboring as an apprentice in the NBDL, on court decision making is part of the maturation process.

The paint represents the proverbial point producing well suiting his aggressive nature but must be tempered as the lane becomes treacherous with defenders keen on thwarting his efforts. Discerning between situations appearing as an offensive opportunity or a potential turnover has been part of the developmental learning curve for the hard driving Gee.

Quin Snyder doubles as head coach of the Austin Toros and the parent club San Antonio Spurs summer league team. Familiarity with Gee prompted his NBDL selection by the former Duke University backcourt standout. Young players have an opportunity to refine the rough edges. "He can handle the ball to create for himself. He's learning how to handle the ball to create for other people and how to be efficient with his dribble," said Snyder. "He has a really nice mid-range game off the dribble."

"He's becoming aware of more things that can help him. Something as simple as rotating on the help side to closing out to denying an entry pass or on the offensive end to feeding the post," said Snyder addressing the pupil's progress since the first day of practice. "For him it's not the spectacular or difficult things but it's the simple, mundane play that will continue to make him. He can make those plays look spectacular too. He can deny his man the ball, tip it and grab it and dunk it."

His immediate goals are "to just get better and continue to grow as a player". "Just be open to learning. Whatever I do I want to win," professed Gee. "The thing that I think makes him unique is his aptitude. He is hungry to learn and he learns very quickly," echoed Snyder. "He's a sponge as far as his hunger and interest to get better. It's easy to be enamored with his physical ability but he's a special young man. You coach him and get on him and he kind of wants more. He tells me, ‘Coach get on me. Stay on me.' He is a unique guy."

Respect between the coach and player is mutual as evidenced by the continuous communication flow. "He has me constantly thinking everyday. He'll throw something different at me. It's a good challenge for me. He'll be on me about something I'm doing real well. I'll say, ‘Coach I'm doing it the right way'," remarked Gee about Snyder's repetitive demands. "He's doing that so I will be more consistent." One post graduate lesson has been sobering for the mild-mannered rookie. "It's a business. That is something I didn't realize in college. You have to take it as a job and come to play everyday," he replied. "There is an opportunity."

The most difficult change from college begins with ‘a lot of plays, reads and sets' according to Gee. Additionally the variation of professional basketball rules must be learned and understood so they can be applied without hesitation. Surprisingly he has come to realize the on-court demands tax not only the mind. "You have to take care of your body because you have back-to-back games and back-to-back practices," he explained. "You have to know how to take care of your body and eat right. You have to be ready for the next game." Besides the speed of the game, every player is physically talented and possesses an advanced skill level he cited as other significant adjustments. "You have to be prepared to play and defend every night because everyone can score," he said. Tough SEC competition eased the transition to the NBDL.

Gee's strengths are obvious to his head coach. "He can finish. He has a post game. He is stretching himself as a player and becoming more fluid on the perimeter. He can really defend too," said Snyder. Defensive consistency has been an issue. "It's a question of him being alert and aware all the time. When he's not involved in a play, he must be anticipating that he will be."

At this juncture in his career an NBA team might covet two demonstrated skills. "He has the ability to guard multiple positions. He's got to be able to do that off-the-ball as well as on-the-ball. That is something I think people are aware of and evaluating in him," declared the third year head coach. "In transition he has a knack for getting to the rim and finishing. That's a real strength especially for teams that run."

Snyder said league personnel are always inquiring about Gee's development. "Part of the challenge for him is to keep his focus and continue to work and get better. He's got a real opportunity I feel like to have a career in the NBA," he optimistically stated. Snyder believes Gee has better range than he realizes but presently lacks the comfort level. ‘Keep working on my outside shot and be more consistent and my overall game,' Gee believes are keys to reaching the NBA. ‘Staying in the gym' is the way to improve his confidence. An hour and a half shoot around and watching opponents film are daily activities on game day. His individual skill practice regime is devoted to free throw shooting, ball-handling and the three-point shot.

Thus far the incubation period in the NBDL has led to Gee being named to the league's 2010 All-Star game played in Dallas. "That is a huge accomplishment for me because I feel like I've been working so hard. My teammates have been helping me out a lot. I'm excited," he stated about his selection to the squad voted on by fans and coaches of the 16 teams. Gee contributed to the 98-81 Western Conference victory with ten points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. His high wire act earned him a second place finish in the Slam Dunk Competition the night before.

He enjoys living in the state capital of Texas even though the citizens were upset when a certain Crimson Tide football team earned the BCS National Championship against their beloved Texas Longhorns. A childhood fascination with drawing continues to be one activity of choice during his spare time. The day after defeating the Springfield Armor was Super Bowl Sunday and a day of rest. Plans were made for the team to visit The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame just across the highway from the hotel. Traveling to the shrine to pay homage seems appropriate for an eager student set on learning the nuances of the game.

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