2008-09 Alabama Basketball Preview: #37
Alabama Crimson Tide
Overall Rank: #37
Conference Rank: #4 SEC (overall)
2007-08: 17-16, 5-11, 5th West
2007-08 postseason: none
If Ronald Steele is back at full strength, Alabama could be a very, very good team. Otherwise, the team will struggle to achieve a winning record again this season. Steele redshirted last year with a multitude of knee and ankle injuries and the Crimson Tide never recovered. Two years ago Steele dished out 4.0 assists per game and cemented his status as one of the best point guards in the nation. That standing is now in question until he can prove that he is healthy and can stay healthy for the entire season.
In Steele’s absence, forward Richard Hendrix took over the team. His 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest were both team highs. Unfortunately for the Tide, that success led to Hendrix heading early to the NBA. The team’s second leading scorer is also gone. Mykal Riley tallied 14.9 points and 5.2 boards a game and the team will have a lot of trouble replacing all those rebounds and all those points. The transfer of the promising Rico Pickett and the graduation of Justin Tubbs will force the newcomers in the backcourt to play a bigger role off the bench.
But Anthony Brock’s role could get even bigger if Steele does not stay healthy. The junior college transfer should be Steele’s primary back-up considering the fact that Pickett is no longer around to try and run the point. Andrew Steele, Ronald’s younger brother, could see some time at the point as well. The 6-3 combo guard is a decent and versatile scorer, but it is his defense that will get him playing time as a freshman. With virtually no frontcourt scorers returning, JaMychal Green will likely step right into the starting lineup. The McDonald’s All-American is a great scorer and rebounder. At 6-9 and 225 pounds, he has the body to battle in the paint with just about anybody in the SEC. After spending the summer on the United State under-18 team at the FIBA Americas Championship, Green is ready to be a big time contributor. He was one of the best big men in that tournament and he will be one of the best in the SEC before his time in Tuscaloosa is over.
Who to Watch:
Alonzo Gee will be joining the elder Steele in the backcourt. Gee, who flirted with the NBA Draft before opting to head back to Alabama for one more year, averaged 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds last year, both team highs among returning players. His outside shooting is rather inconsistent, but he will score around the basket with ease. Most importantly, especially with a young and inexperienced frontcourt, is his ability to hit the glass. It would not be surprising if the 6-6 Riviera Beach, Florida product led the team in rebounding this year. Senario Hillman and Brandon Hollinger will battle it out for the starting spot on the other wing. Hillman had some great games during his freshman campaign, but he also disappeared for games at a time. If he can find some consistency, Hillman will be in for a big sophomore season. If Hillman plays up to his potential, Hollinger will be used as a shooter off the bench. Without Riley around, Hollinger is going to have to pick up the slack from three-point territory. Junior Mikhail Torrance has enough experience to be a part of the regular rotation, but with Steele back and the talented newcomers coming in, he will likely see fewer minutes than he did last season.
Demetrius Jemison is back to start next to Green. Jemison will not do much scoring, but he is a decent rebounder and will do the dirty work to free up space under the basket. The big question is if Green can utilize that space as well as Hendrix did. Yamene Coleman and Justin Knox are decent backups, but Alabama will depend on Green to put up big numbers. If he does, and if Steele is back to his old ways like he was three years ago, the Crimson Tide will not just be an NCAA Tournament team, but a dangerous one at that.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Ronald Steele, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Senario Hillman, Sophomore, Guard, 4.3 points per game
Alonzo Gee, Senior, Guard, 14.5 points per game
Demetrius Jemison, Junior, Forward, 5.6 points per game
JaMychal Green, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season