Previewing Alabama

NC State faces No. 10 Alabama tonight in a huge nonconference matchup. The Crimson Tide (9-1) features five starters who average double figures and one of the nation's top duos in Jermareo Davidson and Ronald Steele.

Alabama Information

    Projected Starters: 
    F- 35 Richard Hendrix  6-8, 265, SO 14.4 ppg. 8.6 rpg.
    F- 01 Mykal Riley 6-6, 185, JR 11.1 ppg. 6.2 rpg.
    C- 33 Jermareo Davidson 6-10, 220, SR  16.1 ppg. 10.6 rpg.
    F- 12 Alonzo Gee 6-6, 215, SO 16.4 ppg. 5.0 rpg.
    PG- 22 Ronald Steele 6-3, 185, JR 10.9 ppg. 4.2 apg.

    Although Wednesday night's game will be the seventh time the University of Alabama, 9-1, and N.C. State, 7-2, have played one another in basketball, the December 20th game marks the first time Alabama has ever played on the road at N.C. State. The Crimson Tide does just that when it plays the Wolfpack on Wednesday in the RBC Center (capacity 19,722) at 5:30 p.m. CT/ 6:30 p.m. ET.

    Both teams come into the game with two-game win streaks, Alabama with back-to-back wins against Alabama State and Southern Miss, N.C. State with back-to-back wins against Savannah State and Mt. St. Mary's.

    Both of the head coaches involved in Wednesday night's game are coaching at the schools where they played their college careers.

    Mark Gottfried, an Oral Roberts transfer after his freshman year in 1984, played and started at guard three seasons for the Crimson Tide, in 1985, 1986 and 1987. Alabama went to the NCAA Sweet 16 all three of those years and won both the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament championship in 1987, his senior year. He graduated from Alabama in 1987.

    Sidney Lowe is in his first season as N.C. State's head coach. He played there at point guard four seasons, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983 (leading N.C. State to the 1983 NCAA title) then went on to play in the NBA and CBA for seven seasons (Indiana, Detroit, Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa Bay, Albany, Cedar Rapids). He started coaching in the NBA in 1992 and has been an NBA head coach at Minnesota, Vancouver and Memphis. His great success as a player and coach the past 23 years in the NBA delayed his finishing his degree work but Lowe graduated from St. Paul's College in June 2006.

    Ten games into the season, five Tide players, all of them starters, are averaging in the double digits in scoring. Sophomore Alonzo Gee continues to lead the offense, averaging 16.4 points, just a fraction ahead of 2006 co-scoring leader (with Ronald Steele) Jermareo Davidson's 16.1 ppg in the eight games Davidson has played. Richard Hendrix is averaging 14.4 points.

    Mykal Riley is averaging 11.1 points and Ronald Steele, who has played in and started in seven games this season, is averaging 10.9 points.

    Richard Hendrix, a Freshman All-SEC pick by the coaches in 2006 is having a super sophomore shooting season so far. After 10 games the Athens native is shooting .600% from the field. He's made 57 of 95 shots. Hendrix was accurate as a freshman as well as in 31 games, he made 108 of 194 shots for .557% from the field.

    The State of Alabama's "Mr. Basketball" and an McDonald's All- American in 2005, Hendrix is averaging 15.5 points a game after 10 games. That's a jump from 9.4 points per game his freshman season.

    Jermareo Davidson needs 22 points to reach his 1,000th career point. He has 978 points, a career average of 9.4 in 104 career games. His nine blocks in the Southern Miss game on Saturday moved him up two spots to No. 4 all-time in blocks at Alabama with a career total of 189. He's averaging 4.9 blocks a game this season.

    While Alabama came into the 2006-07 season returning four of its five starters from its 2006 NCAA tournament team, only two men have been able to start in all 10 games so far this season. That pair includes returning starter and sophomore forward Richard Hendrix and Alonzo Gee (who was only a part-time starter last season in 7 of the Tide's 31 games his freshman year).

    The four starters returning from last season included Hendrix, Brandon Hollinger and Alabama's pair of 2006-07 Wooden candidates, Ronald Steele and Jermareo Davidson. Steele has been battling tendonitis in his right knee for the past six weeks and has only played in seven games (starting in all seven) because of that injury topped by a high left ankle sprain he sustained in the first couple of minutes of the December 7 Notre Dame game.

    Because of the ankle, he hasn't been able to run which would be able to help him check and test his knee's status.

    Davidson has played and started in eight games. He missed the Middle Tennessee game in order to attend the funeral of his girlfriend, Nikki Murphy, and then, as a result of enduring the tragedy of her automobile accident compounded by his brother's (Dewayne Watkins) continued crisis as a patient in critical condition in an Atlanta hospital, he missed several classes and took advantage of an NCAA Bylaw that allows student-athletes who, because of personal tragedies have to miss classes and classwork, are able to withdraw from school, without penalty. The SEC and NCAA re-instated Davidson on Friday, December 15.

    Crimson Tide junior point guard Ronald Steele was tapped as one of the top five players in college basketball November 7 when the Associated Press released its preseason All-American team.

    The 6-3, 185 pound Birmingham native was one of three players from the Southeastern Conference selected to the five-man team. North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough led the voting with his name on 65 of the 72 ballots. Florida junior Joakim Noah was next with 64 votes. Steele had 55 votes. LSU's Glen Davis, the 2006 SEC Player of the Year (as a sophomore), had 51 votes, and Kansas sophomore Brandon Rush rounded out the five (26).

    Only one other Alabama basketball player has been named to the AP Preseason All-America team which began in 1986-87 (with a group that included David Robinson, Danny Manning, Steve Alford, Kenny Smith and Pervis Ellison). Erwin Dudley was an AP preseason All-American going into his senior season, 2002-03, following his being named the 2002 SEC Player of the Year.

    Steele is a two-time All-Southeastern Conference player who also excels in the classroom as a two-time Academic All-SEC player. He co-led Alabama in scoring in 2006 with 14.3 points a game. Steele is also a Playboy Preseason College All-America Basketball Team. Among past recipients of the honor as collegians are NBA greats Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Allen Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal. Playboy selects four guards, four forwards, two centers and a Coach of the Year for its Preseason College All-America Team. Joining Steele among the guards selected are Morris Almond, a senior at Rice, Florida's Taurean Green, and Wisconsin's Alando Tucker. The forwards include LSU's Glen Davis, Nevada's Nick Fazekas, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, and Colorado State's Jason Smith. Florida's Joakim Noah and Ohio State's Greg Oden are the centers and Florida's Billy Donovan the Coach of the Year.

    Steele is also among the official candidates for the Bob Cousy award, the Wooden Award and the Naismith Award.

    On N.C. State:
    "I think it's going to be a great challenge for us to go on the road. I think our guys are anxious to go on the road. They want to go on the road and play a very good North Carolina State team. So we've got a full plate. I think they're very, very good, and we need to play well."

    On Ronald Steele:
    "I'd like to know sooner than game time. We'll see how he does today and tomorrow in practice. We'll see if he's got any bounce in his step. Obviously this is a great intersectional game with North Carolina State. I know he wants to play very, very badly. But I'll watch him. We'll evaluate him and hopefully make a decision on Wednesday. I don't know that we'll make one prior to Wednesday, but we'll take a look and see how he does Monday and Tuesday."

    On N.C. State's depth:
    "I'll tell you what's happened is, they're short on their numbers. They're not a deep team. But the six or seven guys they have playing I think have really gelled well together. They can pass it. They can shoot it. They moved (Gavin) Grant to the point guard position. He's a 6-6 ½ point guard and they'll post him up some. They've got an interior player, an inside guy in (Brandon) Costner that steps out and makes three's, so that poses some problems. So they've done a great job with their team this year."

    On his observations of Grant at the point:
    "The first thing is a lot of times---and I think it's a reflection with Sidney Lowe being so experienced in the NBA-a lot of times the NBA guys will take a bigger NBA perimeter player like him and convert him into being a point guard. And I know with (Engin) Atsur out that they've had to do that, and they've done a great job with it. He's playing very well. He poses a lot of match up problems for teams because of his size. They've posted him up inside which makes him dangerous there. There's no question they've taken advantage of what he can bring to the table and they've utilized him."

    On preparing game plans with/without Steele in lineup:
    "It's been hard. It's just like today. Today is a good example. I think if Ron Steele plays our match ups are a little different than if Brandon Hollinger plays. Brandon is a lot smaller than Gavin Grant, obviously, so not knowing right now who's going to guard who or how you really approach it, you know it affects you a little bit today and tomorrow. The positive side of that, just like the games, I think our team is a lot more confident in Brandon running the point. He's stepped in there and done a nice job and Mikhail Torrance has as well. So you get some positives there. But we've just had so much, so many practice days where we don't know who's going to be out there. Just like right now, I don't know if Ron is going to practice (today) yet or not. We'll have to see how he loosens up and if he can do anything. And if he can't we'll just wait and see once we get in there. Hopefully at some point in time that'll get behind us. We'll get to where we've got everybody practicing every day, but until then we've just got to do the best job we can."

    On Steele's conditioning if there's any drop off from missing practice and play:
    "A little bit, but not nearly like games and practices. I don't think you ever get into great basketball shape until you're playing in games consistently. Even practice is different than games. So he's going to be behind a little bit. But, again, hopefully it won't be long and he'll be healthy."

    On Hollinger's response to running the point:
    "I think he's done a nice job. I'm glad we have him, I promise you that. He's played pretty steady. He understands our offense. He understands defensively what we want to do. When we try to run some specific things offensively, he knows where we want to go with the ball. So he's been a guy that's filled in, I think, very, very well. But I think he would also be the first one to tell you he's looking forward to Ron getting back in there as well."

    On Jermareo Davidson missing a week of practice then having game he did vs. USM:
    "He had a great game. I wish he'd have had one more blocked shot so he'd have had the triple double, but he played very well. He had a lot of energy, lots of emotion. He had a bounce in his step which I thought was great. He was certainly fresh after not doing much all week. But he played at a high level against Southern Mississippi."

    On preparing for N.C. State since it has a new coach, on whether he reviews last year's game vs. the Wolfpack:
    "I won't watch last year's tape. I always do but they have different players playing for the most part and a different system, so I don't know that would help us a whole lot from a year ago. They've got some other guys who have filled in, stepped in. They're playing very different than they did a year ago. I think they've done a good job. They're limited, I think, with their depth, but I think they've managed it pretty well and played pretty well."

  • Pack Pride Top Stories