Alabama Basketball Preview: #96
Overall Rank: #96
Conference Rank: #11 SEC
2008-09: 18-14, 7-9
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Anthony Grant (First year at Alabama, 76-25 overall)
Alabama managed to nab one of the hottest young coaches in the nation when they picked up Coach Anthony Grant. Grant was extremely successful during his short stint at Virginia Commonwealth University and has a ton of experience in the Southeastern Conference as an assistant at Florida. The Crimson Tide have some key pieces to replace this year, but a solid recruiting class and the hope that Coach Grant has brought to the program should mean a better year for Bama.
Key Losses: F Yamene Coleman, G Alonzo Gee, G Brandon Hollinger, G Ronald Steele
This might not be the most talented class in the SEC, but it is a good one. Incoming freshmen Shawn Kemp and Tony Mitchell are highly touted and will make a big impact sooner or later. Fellow freshmen Ben Eblen is expected to be the point guard of the future, but it is a couple junior college transfers who may make the biggest impact this year. Shooting guard Charvez Davis and small forward Chris Hines may not have the potential or the pure talent of the newcomers, but they are experienced players who will give the team a much needed boost on the wings.
The talent on the wings however is not completely lacking. Senario Hillman is coming off of a successful sophomore campaign in which he tallied 12.9 points per game. He is not much of a shooter, and it can be argued that he tries to shoot too much, but he can certainly put the ball in the basket. If Hillman improves his shooting touch this year, he will be extremely difficult to defend. Andrew Steele, the brother of the now departed Ronald Steele, will battle with the newcomers for minutes as well. His freshman campaign was full of inconsistency, but he has enough talent to at least emerge as a capable shooter and scorer off the bench.
Yamene Coleman opted to leave the program a year early and that will force the freshmen into a little more playing time, but with the talent they have, it should not be a problem. Meanwhile, JaMychal Green and Justin Knox will likely remain in their starting roles. Green was not disappointing as a freshman, averaging 10.2 points per game and leading the team with 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Having him back gives the Tide a consistent big man under the basket who can do it all. Knox is not much of a scorer, but he will do the dirty work in the paint and hit the glass hard. Demetrius Jemison, a 6-7 senior, will have to compete with Kemp and Mitchell for playing time.
Who to Watch:
Alabama seems to have all their scorers in place and that just leaves Mikahil Torrance to get them the ball. The 6-5 senior has great size for a point guard and really stepped his game up during his career while the elder Steele was dealing with injuries. Last year he started 15 games and tallied 2.3 assists and just 1.4 turnovers per contest. With a quality and experienced backup like Anthony Brock waiting on the bench, the Crimson Tide will have no worries about their point guard play.
This is a surprisingly talented team. The absence of Alonzo Gee hurts, but Hillman, Green and Torrance are all great scorers who are all capable of taking over a game. The newcomers are also all capable players who have a ton of potential. If the junior college transfers can use their experience and the if the freshmen live up to their potential, this could be a very good season.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Mikhail Torrance, Senior, Guard, 10.0 points per game
Senario Hillman, Junior, Guard, 12.9 points per game
Chris Hines, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Justin Knox, Junior, Forward, 5.7 points per game
JaMychal Green, Sophomore, Forward, 10.2 points per game