Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kobie Baker joins the staff

Link to official announcement

The staff is now complete, with Kobie Baker on board as special assistant to the head coach/Senior Director of Basketball Operations.  He worked with the team from 2006-2009 in the roles of director of basketball operations, assistant coach, and athletics development officer.  For the last three years, he's worked at the NCAA headquarters as associate director of amateurism certification and assistant director of enforcement basketball development.

I think this is a good hire.  It alleviates some of my concerns about Coach Johnson's lack of familiarity with complex NCAA rules and regulations.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

SEC Schedule Released

The SEC released the conference schedule earlier tonight. Alabama will open conference play in Oxford at Ole Miss. I believe the game will be played in the Rebels new basketball arena, The Pavilion at Ole Miss. It may be the first game played in the new arena (previous projections had the arena opening late 2015). At the new place or at the Tad Pad, it doesn't matter, Alabama has always struggled to win out there.

Here's the conference schedule:

Thursday, January 7 - at Ole Miss - 8:00 PM CT
Saturday, January 9 - Kentucky - 5:00 PM CT
Wednesday, January 13 - South Carolina - 8:00 PM CT
Saturday, January 16 - at Vanderbilt - 5:00 PM CT
Tuesday, January 19 - at Auburn - 8:00 PM CT
Saturday, January 23 - LSU - 1:00 PM CT
Tuesday, January 26 - Tennessee - 8:00 PM CT
Saturday, January 30 - at South Carolina - 8:00 PM CT
Tuesday, February 2 - at Mississippi State - 8:00 PM CT
Saturday, February 6 - Missouri - 2:00 PM CT
Wednesday, February 10 - Texas A&M - 6:00 PM CT
Saturday, February 13 - at Florida - 4:30 PM CT
Wednesday, February 17 - at LSU - 8:00 PM CT
Saturday, February 20 - Mississippi State - 1:30 PM CT
Tuesday, February 23 - at Kentucky - 6:00 PM CT
Saturday, February 27 - Auburn - 4:00 PM CT
Wednesday, March 2 - Arkansas - 8:00 PM CT
Saturday, March 5 - at Georgia - 1 or 3:00 PM CT

A couple of things stand out. First and foremost, Alabama will play a home-and-home with Kentucky for the second straight season. Second thing, 8 of the 18 games will be played at the dreaded 8:00 PM time slot. Maybe not a big deal for the weekend games, but it's hard to draw a great crowd with an 8 PM tip during the week. And if this first season is a bit of a struggle, as some of us believe, how invested will the fanbase remain?

You look at those first six games and it's easy to believe that Avery's first conference season could get off to a rocky start. Ole Miss, Kentucky, Vandy, and LSU may all be top 5 teams in the league. Auburn is expected to be improved in Pearl's second season, while South Carolina is expected by some to be vastly improved in Frank Martin's fourth season. In fact, the SEC as a whole is expected to be much improved this season. I don't put a great deal of stock in summer bracketology, but it's interesting to note that many mock brackets have as many as seven teams projected in the field for the upcoming season. The depth of talent and coaching has improved in the conference, and people are beginning to notice. There aren't going to be many, if any, gimmes on the schedule.

What do you think? I'm going to stick with my projection of 6-7 wins in conference play. I hope I'm wrong.

So long, Kobie Eubanks. 4 Star Guard Will Not Enroll

Kobie, we hardly knew ye. With all of the good news surrounding the program recently, you had to wonder when that good ol' Alabama basketball bad luck would reappear. After committing to play at Alabama in July, it was announced today that Kobie Eubanks will not enroll at Alabama after failing to be cleared by the NCAA. Eubanks was denied entry to Baylor University prior to last season after also failing to clear the NCAA. The fact that classes started this week at UA and there was no indication that Eubanks was on campus was an early sign. 

The future is bright at Alabama, but the loss of Eubanks makes what was already looking like a tough first season under Avery Johnson even tougher. Eubanks would have brought a scoring punch and a physical presence to the 2-guard position, an area that Alabama is severely lacking in for 15-16. The chances of him cracking the starting line-up were high. For those of us hoping that this team may find a way to punch a postseason ticket of some kind despite its shortcomings, today's news regarding Eubanks tempers that optimism quite a bit.

On the positive side of things, this clears the way for a guy like Brandon Austin to get major minutes as a freshman. Other possibilities at the 2 include Retin Obasohan (not your typical 2-guard) and Arthur Edwards (not previously known for his scoring) or you may see the coaching staff go with two point guards in Dazon Ingram and Justin Coleman.

Tune in to the SEC Network at 6 PM CT as the conference schedule will be announced. DJC or I will follow up with a post regarding the schedule later tonight. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Levi Randolph Signs with Boston Celtics + A Few Words About the Ferguson Commitment

This is a few days late, but Levi Randolph has been signed by the Boston Celtics and will attend their training camp. It will be an uphill battle for Levi to make the final roster, but worst case scenario is that he will spend some time with the Celtics developmental team while waiting for a roster opportunity in Boston. Levi was also fielding offers from overseas prior to signing with the Celtics so that could also be a future opportunity. The important thing is that basketball is in Levi's future. I wish him the best of luck. He was, at times, an enigmatic player on the court during his four years, but he represented the university with a great deal of class and humility. He will be an easy guy to pull for.

DJC has covered the Terrance Ferguson commitment in his post below. I wanted to piggy back on what he wrote, and briefly add a few thoughts of my own.

I can't state it enough how important this commitment is for Avery Johnson. He needed to send a message in recruiting. He did that to some extent in salvaging the 2015 class, adding a 4-star player late in Kobie Eubanks, filling all 13 roster spots. But the commitment of Ferguson - a top 10-15 rated player overall in the deep and talented 2016 class - delivered a loud message that Avery Johnson and his staff are not going to take a backseat to anyone in the SEC or even the nation. They're going to attempt to build a fence around the state of Alabama, but they're also going to look far and wide for talent outside the region. Just my opinion, but the football-rich Southeast simply isn't producing the basketball talent that is emerging in the Southwest or has existed for decades in the Northeast, Midwest or West Coast. Tapping into these areas, offering these kids something outside the box with the chance to attend school in a different region of the country and a head coach with NBA experience as a player and coach is something that I think can be successful for this staff moving forward. 

My skepticism of Avery Johnson initially wasn't so much his ability to be media savvy or recruit well - his time at ESPN educated him in the power and use of the media, and his affable personality and pro experience were going to help him with recruits - but could he x and o with the best of a growing stable of great coaches in the SEC? That skepticism remains to some extent, and will remain until we see how he handles game situations, but everything the guy has done up to this point has been excellent. For all of his skills as a program builder and coach, Gregg Marshall would not have been celebrating a Terrance Ferguson commitment today. Avery Johnson is going to open up Alabama basketball recruiting in a way that we haven't seen in a long time, maybe never. If his in-game coaching and player development comes close to what he's done off the court to this point, we could be on the verge of witnessing something very fun in the years ahead. Terrance Ferguson could be the first step into a larger world. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Terrance Ferguson Commits to Bama!

Terrance Ferguson, a 5 star recruit who is considered by many recruiting services to be one of the ten best prospects in the nation, has committed to play for Coach Avery Johnson at the University of Alabama!

He made the announcement via this awesome video.  He's originally from Tulsa, playing in Texas now, and chose us over KANSAS!

I'm normally not one to get overly excited about recruiting, but I don't think I can overstate the importance of this commitment.  We've signed players of this caliber before, but I don't think we've ever gotten one from a geographical location from outside the southeast.  The fact that Coach Johnson pulled this off, at the expense of a blue blood program with a geographical advantage, answers some questions and puts the college basketball world on notice that the Tide rising.

Any doubts about Coach Johnson's ability to recruit have been silenced.  Other high profile prospects will now see us as a viable option.  We won't be limited by our state's and neighboring state's boundaries any longer.

Buck your seat belts and Realize It Can Happen!


Monday, August 10, 2015

We have a schedule!

The first non-conference schedule of the Avery Johnson era has been released. The schedule release day for me is up there with Christmas and my birthday. It's always exciting to see who Alabama will play while trying to project how the schedule will play out. We're roughly three months away from the season, and I think many in the Alabama fanbase are itching to get this season started to see what the new coaching staff and players will bring to the table.

Here is the schedule. Previews of each opponent will be posted just before the season tips off.

Friday, November 6th - Trevecca Nazarene (Exh.) - Time: TBA

Friday, November 13th - Kennesaw State - Time: TBA

Tuesday, November 17th - at Dayton - Time: 12:00 PM CST (Part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon)

Friday, November 20th - Louisiana Lafayette - Time: TBA

Thursday, November 26th - Advocare Invitational - vs Xavier - Time: 11:00 AM CST

Friday, November 27th - Advocare Invitational - vs Wichita/USC - Time: TBA

Sunday, November 29th - Advocare Invitational - vs Notre Dame/Monmouth/Iowa/Dayton - Time: TBA

Friday, December 4th - at Southern Miss - Time: TBA

Sunday, December 13th - vs Clemson  (Game will be played in Greenville, SC) - Time: TBA

Wednesday, December 16th - Winthrop - TBA

Monday, December 21st - Oregon  (Game will be played in Birmingham) - Time: TBA

Tuesday, December 29th - Jacksonville State - Time: TBA

Saturday, January 2nd - Norfolk State - Time: TBA

A few comments about the schedule. It's a tough schedule for a first year coaching staff. Only 5 of the 12 non-conference games will be played in Coleman Coliseum. The home slate isn't particularly attractive, but the Oregon game in Birmingham will be included in season ticket packages. There is a nice variety to this schedule. You have road games that will test this young team (Dayton, Southern Miss, Clemson), a really tough field in the Orlando event, solid mid-major programs (Louisiana Lafayette, Winthrop, Norfolk State), a marquee game in Birmingham, and even a fellow program from the great state (Jacksonville State). You may also notice that there is no game schedule for SEC Championship Saturday. It is my understanding that is not an accident. It's the little things such as this that have swayed me to this coaching staff. Remembering the struggle in 2012 of going back and forth between the basketball game at Cincinnati and the football game with Georgia was maddening. It's nice to know that if the football team does make it to Atlanta, that's all we have to focus on as fans for that day.

At first glance, I'll predict an 8-4 record heading into conference play.Please share your thoughts and predictions in the comments section.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Coop Goes Pro

It is my hope to do a better job of keeping up with the former players who have been a part of this thing we love called Alabama basketball. In many instances their careers don't end once they leave Tuscaloosa, and I find the journey of professional basketball players far and wide to be an engrossing story. I think this would make a great idea for a documentary, if someone has the money and film-making talent to undertake such a venture.

Rodney Cooper has signed a contract to play basketball in Hungary with Sopron of the International Basketball Federation (aka FIBA). According to the university, Coop is only one of eight rookies to sign with a FIBA club. FIBA is a well-respected league with a lot of good players, some who eventually find their way to the NBA. Here's hoping Coop has a long and successful pro career.

Coop was often the forgotten man during his career, overshadowed by the likes of Trevor Releford, Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph, but Coop had a very solid career (1,122 career points) and I thought he was one of the bright spots in his final season as he had arguably the most productive season of his career (11.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg).