Wednesday, January 25, 2012

hardwood thoughts: where are we now

A running feature that was well received definitely existed during last basketball season was a series in which we would visit with my brother Whit, a sometimes aspiring basketball coach who now leads a youth group in Panama City. He and I share opinions about Alabama basketball, and many of them are actually acceptable to share with other people. Here we check in with Whit in the midst of a three-game losing streak, as some question whether coach Grant is getting through to his team (though our RPI remains strong). As always, feel free to find us on Twitter or leave your comments here.

AP Photo
me: Is it me, or are we basically the same team we were at this time last year? We seem slightly better shooting the basketball, but not by a lot ... and if anything, the kids who are better shooters are more prone to defensive lapses (which drives coach Grant insane).
Whit: I think we ARE a better team this year than we were at this time last year. The main reason I feel this way is because I think Coach Grant is about to "find our identity as a team." I think that he's doing a great job using the entire bench to play disciplined defense, and hustle from tip to final horn. I also like the fact that he'll yank people who aren't doing their job out of the game and put somebody else in who will. I think that our shooting as a whole has been poor for quite some time. The guys seem like they shoot the ball well, like most people, when they have a chance to set their feet. I realize that's not rocket science, and everybody knows that but we just don't seem to be getting our feet set at all when we shoot the ball...especially not from 3. And much like 20-year-old kids, they get upset when they miss shots and don't play defense.
me: And then there's Tony Mitchell, who is the most athletic and has the lowest basketball IQ of anybody on the squad. And he may actually be regressing as a player.
Whit: Ah...Mr. Mitchell...where do we start? You are the most athletic and most exciting player that Alabama has right now. You are actually a pretty good shooter, too. However, you are by far the laziest defender we have. You're moody, You make poor decisions, and then You walk down the court as the rest of your teammates bust their rumps to play defense!
** The best thing that Tony can do as a player right now is to lose some of his emotion. Most of his problems are mental because he seems to think that he's the only scoring option on the court when he plays. If he doesn't get such a big head and try to do things that are ridiculous (i.e. standing still next to the ball handler for 5 seconds calling for the ball, then get the ball, and then take a contested three pointer with two seconds left on the shot clock) he can play well and function as part of what should be a fun team to watch.
** To add to that, all of Alabama's players need to be passionate about the game they're playing but they need to play the game like a business in order to find the success they/we want. We seem to always follow the momentum of the game, and with every ebb and flow, so goes our play. 
me: What's our best 5 right now? On Saturday in Kentucky, we played a crunch-time 5 of Releford, Randolph, Lacey, Steele (because Tony Mitchell fouled out) and Green/Jacobs — basically, a 4-guard lineup that allowed us to run more. And it would've worked, but we couldn't stop fouling them (particularly, Steele's foul on the jump shooter at about the :40 mark was a killer).

Whit: Releford, Lacey, Randolph, Green, Jacobs. --  I think we should start games with this kind of lineup and run some of the high post stuff that Bama ran under (ohgoddon'tsayit) Gottfried. We had Davidson and Hendrix at the time, and they were able to beat some people up at the beginning of games with a lot of that kind of action.
• Releford, Steele, Randolph, Mitchell, Green -- I like this lineup to run with and because Steele provides some leadership and solid decision making on the court at all times. He also tends to be the old guy in the gym who knows when to attack and get fouled, when to sag out and be open for a three, and when to calm everybody else down. I think Randolph will come along as the season goes. I really like him because he has a good looking shot and has the rebounding capability to cause problems underneath.  (Maybe post him up and clear out with undersized defenders?)
me: If we make it in the tournament, you think we have a shot to do anything?
Whit: I think that we'll make the tournament and win one or two. As we all know, Alabama can get hot shooting the ball and blow some people out. We also know that they can make 0 3s for a game, be completely deflated, and quit before it's over. I hope that they can catch fire shooting the ball at the right time. 

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