I’m sure you’ve heard this question sometime in your life: “If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Who really knows the correct answer?
Here’s another one: “If the Crimson Tide football team is in the midst of an undefeated season, and the SEC holds its basketball media days in Birmingham, AL, does anybody really care?” That one is pretty easy: No.
However, there was one interesting little tidbit of information to arise out of these meetings: Alabama was picked first in the SEC West. This piece of news inevitably led most Alabama basketball fans to think one thing: “Wow...the West must really, really suck this year.”
Yep. It’s true. No SEC West team is ranked in the AP Top 25. Only two—LSU (31) and Alabama (16)—even received any votes at all, so you would think Alabama has a legitimate chance to win the West this year.
They won’t. Not with this team, and certainly not with Mark Gottfried coaching this team. But that’s a rant I’ll save until about mid-February. For now, I’ll just stick with breaking down the squad.
This whole unit depends on the health of Ronald Steele. Will Steele be the player he was three seasons ago, before the knee injuries, when he averaged 14 points and four assists a game? Or will he be the Steele of two seasons ago, when he averaged eight points, four assists, and generally drug himself up and down the court like Torgo in Manos: Hands of Fate?
Brandon Hollinger returns for his senior season. He’s the epitome of the “almost” basketball player. He’s almost quick enough and almost has the instincts to play the point, and almost big enough to be a smallish shooting guard. He has shown flashes but is really more relied on to just not lose the game and to hit the open shot. He shot 43 percent from three last year.
Mikhail Torrence is a 6’5” lefty with decent point guard instincts and the ability to get in the paint. He is also a career 18 percent three-point shooter. Unless teams actually play off him and make him go right, he’s virtually unstoppable.
Senario Hillman should have a nickname. I nominate “Baby Miner.” Like Harold Miner was, he’s a breathtaking leaper and a YouTube staple. He also shot 14 percent from three last year. With the three-point line moved back this year, I am so looking forward to the Torrence/Hillman backcourt Gottfried will inevitably play for long stretches of minutes this year.
Alabama suffered the annual defection of players this offseason with the transfers of Justin Tubbs (a streaky shooter but tenacious defender) and Rico Pickett (um...wore a headband well, I guess), both of whom saw extensive playing time. Thank you again, Mark. I...better move on. Save the Gottfried rant for later, DScot...
The only other true guard likely to see quality minutes this year is incoming freshman Andrew Steele, Ronald’s little brother. Some say he is better than Ronald was coming out of high school. That would be nice. Hard to believe, but nice.
I have a love/hate relationship with Alonzo Gee. There are times where he looks like the fiercest, most athletic player on the court. Then there are other times when he seems to play with all the intensity of a dad shooting hoops with his six-year-old daughter out in the driveway. He’s a decent scorer, rebounder, defender, and shooter—when he shows up. Dude drives me crazy.
Demetrius Jemison is a hard working ‘tweener. He’s 6’7” and pulls down about five boards a game to go with five points. He has improved his numbers every year. For Alabama to be successful, that trend will have to continue.
Apparently, there was a guy named Avery Jukes that played 22 games for Alabama last year and averaged two points a game. I don’t really even remember him. That can’t be a good thing.
Richard Hendrix opted to enter the NBA draft after his junior year, despite not being picked until the second round. Alabama will sorely miss his toughness and leadership, perhaps even more than his nightly double-double.
JaMychal Green was the gem of Gottfried’s incoming recruiting class. The 6’9” freshman was a McDonald’s High School All-American. He averaged 26 points, 17 boards, and seven blocks his senior year. He will immediately step into a starting role at Alabama. It will be really interesting to see how many ways Gottfried will find to waste his talent.
Last season was the first season that I didn’t experience an immediate wave of hopelessness come over me whenever Yamene Coleman received the ball—so he’s obviously making progress. However, he’s still a career 38 percent free throw shooter. That’s just sad. Unless you don’t have hands, you should be able to hit at least 40 percent from the line.
Justin Knox is an energy guy coming off the bench. He impressed me as a freshman last year, and I hope to see him get more minutes this year. When he doesn’t, I hope he at least transfers somewhere close, because he’s fun to watch play.
There you have it, folks—your 2008-2009 SEC Basketball Western Division Champions!