Monday, May 31, 2010

Demetrius Jemison To Transfer

The Birmingham News is reporting that Demetrius Jemison will seek a transfer. Jemison will be the third player in two years (joining Yamene Coleman and Justin Knox) to seek a transfer.

The short-term effect of this could be dire as Alabama now only has three guys that can be considered frontcourt players (JaMychal Green, Chris Hines and Jason Carter). Jemison's decision to transfer is odd since he could have been a probable starter. He claims there are no hard feelings against Grant or his staff and that his decision is being supported by Grant. Schools that have expressed early interest in Jemison include Murray State and Nebraska. Since he has graduated, he will be eligible to play immediately.

Hopefully this move was spurred by another frontcourt recruit that we haven't heard about yet. If not, then Alabama will be faced once again with a severe lack of depth in the frontcourt. Hopefully incoming recruit Jason Carter is ready to play. If not, Alabama will be a very small team next season.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Very Early 2010-11 SEC Predictions

Now that the NBA early entry draft deadline has passed and teams have all but concluded their recruiting for the 2010 class, I thought now would be the perfect time to post my very early SEC predictions for next season. Obviously a lot can happen between now and then (late additions to the recruiting class, injuries, academics, discipline, etc.), but this is how I see the SEC shaping up as of today. Let's start with the West since that concerns Alabama fans the most.

The SEC West, as usual, should be a wide open race. Ole Miss and Mississippi State appeared to be runaway favorites a few weeks ago...that is, before Terrico White and Dee Bost declared for the NBA Draft. Their decisions have now made predicting the West a rather tricky endeavor. Therefore let it be known that I will probably change these predictions 2 or 3 more times before next season arrives......and then deny all knowledge of this post when my predictions crash and burn. Here goes:

1. Ole Miss - The Rebels lose three starters but return a nice backcourt of Chris Warren, Zach Graham, Trevor Gaskins and Indiana transfer, Nick Williams. The frontcourt is young but promising with returnees Terrance Henry and Reginald Buckner and incoming recruit, Demarco Cox. Andy Kennedy has quietly done a good job recruiting to keep his team competitive year in and year out, but the Rebels have failed to make the NCAA tournament during his tenure. If the frontcourt grows up quickly, Ole Miss should be in contention to break their tournament drought.

2. Mississippi State - State would have been the easy pick for number one in the West if Dee Bost had returned to school. Now with him and Barry Stewart gone, the guard play could be a weakness for State next season. Fortunately for Rick Stansbury, Ravern Johnson withdrew from the NBA draft and Renardo Sidney never entered, ensuring State will have a nice inside-outside combination next season. Johnson was quietly the Bulldog’s leading scorer and one of the best perimeter shooters in the conference. Sidney remains a wild card after sitting out last season due to questions about his eligibility. He was considered one of the top big men in the 2009 class despite questions about his weight and endurance. If he is in shape and ready to play, he can be one of the top players in the league next season and help keep Mississippi State near the top of the West division.

3. Alabama - While the 2011 class looks promising so far, Alabama couldn't lock down a few important recruits for the 2010 class (Ricardo Ratliff, Marcus Thornton & Luke Cothron) that would have bolstered a solid, but not imposing, frontcourt. There will also be questions at point guard. And while Bama returns experience at shooting guard, none of that experience has been exactly consistent. As a result, Alabama may not be able to make significant improvement from last season. The team must remain healthy this season, Green and Mitchell will have to be go-to guys, and the team will need to continue the defensive play that established it as the conference's best a year ago if they do hope to make a move in Anthony Grant's second year.

4. Arkansas - One gets the feeling that next season will be an important one for John Pelphrey as far as the Arkansas fan base goes. After several seasons of mediocrity, the Razorback program seems once again at a crossroads, with Pelphrey possibly entering next season on the hot seat. Fortunately for him, the knucklehead element that has seriously hindered his rebuilding project may finally be gone with Courtney Fortson's decision to enter the draft. What was considered a blow to the program could prove to be addition by subtraction.......or the same Arkansas team that was less than mediocre without Fortson early last season will show up again. The team will need Marshawn Powell, who was the best freshman last season not named John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, to continue his development. Rotnei Clarke remains one of the best shooters in the country, but he may be required to handle the ball more next season due to the shortage at point guard. A lot will also be expected of Iowa transfer guard, Jeff Peterson. If the bench can be productive, Arkansas can finish higher.

5. LSU - The rebuilding continues for Trent Johnson. The team loses its best player in Tasmin Mitchell, and its leading scorer from a year ago, Bo Spencer, has been ruled academically ineligible for the first semester. Not the best way to start a season. The good news is Johnson has a solid recruiting class coming in along with Ole Miss transfer, Malcolm White, who will be eligible after sitting a year. If Spencer returns for the second semester and the recruits contribute, LSU should easily improve on last year's abysmal season.

6. Auburn - Okay, I'll admit it: Tony Barbee was a great hire by Auburn. He's already locked up several nice recruits (Luke Cothron, Josh Langford) for his first season and there is excitement surrounding the Auburn program for the first time in a while. There is no doubt Auburn's talent level will be higher next season (Langford and Cothron are both capable of being impact players, Frankie Sullivan is a proven scorer and Barbee is high on incoming recruit, Chris Denson), but this will still be a young team lacking the experience and probable depth needed to make a serious push in Barbee's first season. If his recruiting efforts continue however, Auburn should be in the thick of things within a couple of years. Perhaps the most important accomplishment to earn in Barbee's first season will be to lure Auburn's notoriously apathetic fan base (to be fair: Alabama's isn't much better) to the new arena.


The SEC East is expected to be one of the most competitive races in conference history. While Calipari's recruiting efforts (and subsequent investigations) have no peer at the moment, the rest of the division does appear to have held steady or improved from last season, which should make for some great games. The level of potential NBA talent in the division is mind-boggling so expect the SEC to be well represented in next season's draft.

1. Kentucky – Cal has done it again: the number one recruiting class for the second year in a row. Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and perhaps even Eloy Vargas might be NBA draft picks next season. UK won't be as deep as they were a year ago, but no other team in the conference can match the talent Calipari will be able to put on the floor. Once again a lack of experience could prove detrimental on the national stage, but Kentucky seems poised to continue atop the SEC.

2. Florida - The Gators will be the most experienced team in the conference (all five starters return), which means Florida appears to be the biggest challenge to Kentucky.......on paper.Not only are they experienced, but Donovan has brought in another highly rated recruiting class led by Casey Prather and Patric Young. This is definitely Donovan's best looking team since the national championship years. If they can improve on the defensive end, Florida should be a top 25 team, at least.

3. Tennessee - This team will be young, but also deep and talented. Bruce Pearl proved himself to me last season with how he handled the adversity that hit the team at mid-season; it was a travesty he was not voted SEC coach of the year. There's no question he will find a way to win, but what is a question is who will lead the team now that Chism and Prince (and, heck, throw in Bobby Maze) are gone? For all of their attributes, players such as Scotty Hopson, Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams haven't shown much leadership, though to be fair they haven't been called upon to do that. Players to watch: Marquette transfer, Jeronne Maymon, and incoming recruit, Tobias Harris. If someone steps up as a leader, Tennessee has the pieces in place to contend for the SEC title.

4. Georgia - There is a lot of kool-aid being mixed for the Georgia Bulldogs so far. Andy Katz placed Georgia in his preseason top 25 based largely on the fact that Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins are returning. However, Leslie and Thompkins were a force a year ago and the team still finished three games under .500 overall and 5-11 in the conference. While there is no argument that Leslie and Thompkins are the real deal (both will probably be first round picks next season), I have serious reservations about their supporting cast. That prevents me from predicting them to finish too high.

5. Vanderbilt - Losing Ogilvy hurts, but this team has enough talent returning to compete in the East. The bench will be a question, as well as who will take over the point guard reins now that Jermaine Beal has finished his college career (my guess is Brad Tinsley). Finishing in the bottom half of the East division next season will not be an indictment on the teams that end up there, but someone has to finish there. Picking Vanderbilt to finish this low is probably stupid (Kevin Stallings has done a wonderful job in Nashville year in and year out) but I'm going to stick with it for right now as I think the teams in front of them have just a bit more overall talent to work with.

6. South Carolina - Darrin Horn is in a tough situation. He's recruiting well and slowly making progress, but trying to rebuild in the East division is not going to be easy for the young coach. There's no doubt Horn is killing it on the recruiting trail, but will Gamecock fans be patient enough? With that said, Carolina returns some talent in guys like Ramon Galloway, Lakeem Jackson and Sam Muldrow while adding Nevada transfer, Malik Cooke, and brings in a legitimate recruiting class led by Damontre Harris. This team will be a pain in the ass for teams to play night in and night out, but they might be another year or two away from being a serious challenger.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Your Professional Cycling Update

Australian Michael ("Mick") Rogers won this year's Amgen Tour of California in the most exciting contest of the event's 5 year history.  Rogers took the leader's yellow jersey off the back of American Time Trial Champion Dave Zabriski, who rides for Garmin-Slipstream, by grabbing two bonus seconds at the first sprint point of the fifth stage.  The two riders shared matching times at that point so the leader's jersey was awarded to Mick on the basis of their count-back place finishes.  Rogers secured the jersey by grabbing two more bonus seconds by finishing second on the  fourth stage and by besting both Zabriski and three time Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer (Team Radio Shack) and by edging both of his primary rivals out during the seventh stage individual time trial.

This season's move of the ATofC from February to May provided much more exciting race than in years past by allowing a mountain top stage finish at Big Bear Lake.  The skiing area is covered with snow in February so this was the first time the Tour contestants were able to make the climb.  There were plenty of fireworks as both Zabriski and Leipheimer repeatedly attacked Rogers on the way up to Big Bear Lake and also on the climb of the hill on the last circuit ridden in stage eight.  Rogers proved to be in peak form as he covered each attack. 

This is perhaps the best Mick Rogers has ridden since he crashed and broke his collar bone while being the virtual leader of the 2007 Tour de France.  I personally like Rogers now that he is riding clean and would like to see him contend for a podium spot in le Tour this July.

The Giro d' Italia ("Tour of Italy") entered its third week today and really is starting to heat back up.  Before the start this year's Giro looked like it would be a four-way slug fest between reigning World Champion Cadel Evans (Team BMC), Ivan Basso (Team Liquigas), newly-returned-from-doping-exile Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team).  Then the the leaders allowed a break away containing Richie Porte of Spain's Caisse d'Epargne to finish 13 minutes ahead of them.  Now all the favorites are chasing the young Spaniard and trying to take title from him. 

This year's Giro has had a little bit of everything; rain, wind, crashes, mountains and time trials.  It has not been easy to watch since USA's Versus Channel elected to broadcast the Amgen Tour of California.  I have been able to catch a few hi lites and was able to watch most of today's time trial that finished atop Plan de Corones.  This was an excruciating ride that climbed up more than 1000 meters while moving forward just over 12 kilometers.  The last 5+ km of the race were over a packed gravel road, not asphalt or concrete, and had stretches of incline that reached a 24% gradient.  Add to that the crazed Italian fans jumping all around the riders as they wrestled their way up that narrow trail, and there was more than enough excitement to go around. 

Aussie Cadel Evans has looked like a completely new rider since winning the World Road Race Champion's rainbow jersey and moving to Team BMC this year.  Perhaps that's because the team focuses on Cadel's results and does not have to look after sprinters like Robbie McEwen the way his former team did.  Then again, maybe it really is true that wearing that rainbow jersey gives any rider renewed strength.  He does not seem likely to win the Giro this year, but Cadel has continued to ride bravely and aggressively.  He rode an excellent time trial today and finished with the second best time at the top of the mountain and he has launched repeated attacks on every other mountain stage. 

Unfortunately for Evans, Ivan Basso now looks like the most likely candidate to wear the Maglia Roas ("Pink Jersey") at the end of this three week epic.

Knox transfer saga over- going to play for the Tar Heels

Good luck to him... if anything he'll get the exposure he desperately wants there. UNC is even more in need of big men than we are... and I suspect he'll get somewhere around 25 MPG to start the season.


Link

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tide to play Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City on Dec. 18

The schedule is already starting to come together. This, along with the paradise jam, will make for a pretty difficult non-conference schedule. Read more here.

Congratulation to Robert Horry, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame

Robert Horry was recently inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Read more here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"A dog that poops quick don't poop long!"

That (although I have substituted a less graphic word for another one he used) is  what one of my api buddies used to say when we would watch games together and one team would jump out to a huge, early lead.  I try to keep that expression in mind when I see a new leader produce remarkably quick results with a program.  Conversely, how many games did LSU's football team win in Nick Saban's first year?  What about in his first year at Alabama? 

I appreciate how disappointed many of us have been with the recruiting news up until now.  It is very easy to let that push out of our memories just how pleased we were to see how disciplined and conditioned our team was in Grant's first season.  None of us expected to win 30 games or even to go to the NCAA Tournament in that first year.  We knew rebuilding would take time.  We hoped recruiting would turn around quickly.  Most of us understood that probably would take time to show results too. 

I have no idea what players we should recruit. My life seems to have been so busy lately that I did not attend a single high school game last season. Other than cycling, I pretty much never watch or even follow professional sports. I almost never watch anybody play college football or basketball if they are not playing Alabama. Even in the old days with limited television coverage when I did try to watch every football and basketball game that was televised, I did not keep up with high school recruits or recruiting.

If there are any other ways to say I know nothing about recruiting except what I read here and on a few websites (I trust those people to know what they are talking about more than I do sports writers or broadcasters), I don't know how to say it.  I hope that is clear.

Having said all that, I am reminded that Coach Grant and Coach Pujol both have said repeatedly that 2011 is THE year for local area recruiting. I'm sure they would not have pursued the players we've recently lost to other schools if they did not want them for our program.  But they also said they would not sign a player just to fill a slot with a body. 

Rome was not built in a day. The people who have expressed their disappointment and exasperation at our lack of recruiting results up until now are not necessarily "haters." They probably are just frustrated.  We need to give Coach Grant at least as much time to rebuild our program as we gave his predecessor to dismantle it. 
 
We just got some good recruiting news.  There will be more recruiting news in the future.  Some will be encouraging.  Some will not.  Take a deep breath.  Building anything properly takes time.  Let's all remember how happy we were to see Coach Grant come to take control of our program. I do not recall him ever making a single excuse after any of his teams losses last year.  I expect him to be a tireless worker who learns from his mistakes and gets better over time.  We will let his results do his talking for him.  We will need more than one season and more than two recruiting seasons to know what they will say.  I am optimistic, but no practical person should abandon hope after so brief a period of time.
 
Roll Tide!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The 2011 class is off to a great start!

Bama picked up 2 big time commitments tonight for the 2011 class:

Levi Randolph, a 6'4 175 lb SF from Bob Jones HS in Madison, AL. He is one of the top recruits from the state of AL and a top 50 prospect nationally. Coach Grant has been on him from day one, and I was concerned about auburn with their recent momentum and Barbee's north Alabama ties. This was a huge pickup for us. Congratulations to Coach Grant and staff, and welcome to UA basketball, Levi Randolph, we can't wait till you sign!

Rodney Cooper, a 6'5, 196 lb SG from Phenix City, AL. While he has been somewhat overshadowed by the talent in the Huntsville area, Cooper is rated a 4 star and top 100 player nationally by Rivals. He averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds per game for Russell County, and chose Bama over UGA. He's also a solid defensive player, averaging over 2 steals per game.

After narrowly missing out on some top prospects for this year's class, I know many of us were concerned about Coach Grant's ability to recruit. These two commitments for 2011 certainly ease a lot of my concern. In the wake of the Justin Knox fiasco and the aforementioned misses on Marcus Thornton, Ratliffe, and Cothron, this great news!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Marcus Thornton Signed with UGA.

We were in the hunt, but could not close the deal. Sometimes it is difficult to get a player to leave his home state. Phillip Pearson had some luck recruiting the Atlanta area when he was on Gottfried's staff, and with him at UGA now, we need to step it up if we are going to compete for talent in the ATL.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's Cavendish!

I was not able to watch today's first mountain stage in the Giro so I had to settle for the Versus Channel's coverage of the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California.  Mark Cavendish, the British rider from the Isle of Man who rides for the American team HTC-Columbia, was able to stay ahead of Saxo Bank's JJ Haedo to win this stage that obviously was designed for the sprinters.  I sure enjoyed watching Cav win, but I was disappointed that Haedo was almost able to overtake in in the last 50 meters or so.  This might be a very exciting Tour of California.  Levi Leipheimer has won the last three in a row, but he's always trained specifically for this race and planned to be ready to ride in February when it's been run in the past.  Now that they are riding in May, it would be very difficult for anyone to bet against Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellera, the Swiss National Champion and two time world time trial champion, to win a race that traditionally has been decided in the Race of Truth stage each year. 

Anyone who might wonder why another person might watch a bicycle race on television might try watching the last few minutes of the Versus coverage of this race during the coming week.  If that helps you develop a taste for the sport, then there will be lots more to offer in the coming months.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Southern Illinois Transfer Considering Alabama

Jeff Goodman at Fox Sports reported earlier that Kevin Dillard - a 6 ft, 170 lb point guard transferring from Southern Illinois - is considering Alabama. Dillard is also looking at Baylor, Dayton, Nebraska and UTEP. Dillard was a sophomore so he will have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the mandatory one year for transfer.

His numbers at Southern Illinois this past season: 12.3 ppg, 5 apg & 3.1 rpg. Not too shabby, particularly playing in the Missouri Valley conference, which I consider a very high level of basketball. He will challenge for playing time next season if he does transfer to Tuscaloosa.

In other news: Former Rhode Island commit, Kyle Cain - a 6'7 forward from Chicago - has been released from his LOI and currently has a short list of Illinois, West Virginia, Alabama and Arizona State. Grant recruited Cain when he was at VCU. While Cain might not be an immediate impact player, he could provide much needed depth in the frontcourt if Grant is unable to land Marcus Thornton. Then again, if the schools on his short list are any indication, Cain's stock has obviously rose. Perhaps he would prove to be ready for prime time after all. Nevertheless, it's positive to see that Grant has so many kids on the radar this late into the recruiting period. As good as the 2010 class is looking, the hard work by Grant and his staff could reap huge rewards in 2011.

And, finally: I happen to believe that in life everything happens for a reason. Even the things that seem the most brutal and unfair on the surface will eventually show themselves to be absolutely necessary. So it is with the Justin Knox saga. While Justin and his family are currently appealing the university's decision to bar him from transferring to another SEC school or UAB, a potentially exciting opportunity has come in the form of North Carolina head coach, Roy Williams.

Turns out Williams contacted Justin's uncle, Darien Knox, to express interest in Justin for next season. With Carolina losing David and Travis Wear to transfer last week, their depth in the front court is looking mighty thin. While Justin wouldn't be guaranteed a starting spot with Tyler Zeller and John Henson returning, the chance to play for one of the best coaches in the game at one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country might be too much to pass up. The consensus opinion is that there is no way Carolina will struggle through a second sub-par season, particularly with Harrison Barnes - one of the top five high school players in the country - set to make his mark in Carolina blue next season.

However it turns out, here's wishing the best of luck to Justin in the future.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Recruiting News: Alabama among Thornton's final four.

Alabama is one of the final four schools that Marcus Thornton - a 6'7 forward from Georgia - is considering signing with for the 2010-2011 season. The other schools are Georgia, Georgia Tech and Texas. Alabama and Georgia Tech seem to be the favorites due to the chance for playing time in Thornton's freshman year.

Thornton had a monster senior year at Atlanta's Westlake High School, averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds and leading his team to the state championship game. If he were to sign with Alabama there is a good chance he will comprise a formidable starting frontcourt tandem with returning junior, JaMychal Green. Along with the return of Chris Hines, Demetrius Jemison and fellow signee, Jason Carter, Alabama would not be lacking in depth or talent in the paint next season.

One thing in Alabama's favor is that Anthony Grant has had Thornton on his radar since his VCU tenure. In fact, of the four remaining coaches vying for Thornton's talents, Grant is the one who has been recruiting Thornton the longest. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

In other recruiting news: Angelo Chol, a 6'8, 205 lb Center from San Diego, who is currently Number 19 on Rivals Top 150 class for 2011 tweeted on May 7th that Uconn, Alabama, Kansas, Washington and Georgetown are the top 5 schools left that he is considering. Obviously a lot can change between now and 2011, but the other schools being considered should provide you some idea of how much this kid is thought of in recruiting circles. With the possibility of JaMychal Green testing the NBA waters in the near future, a recruit like Chol would be welcome indeed.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Justin Knox transfer saga (to UAB).. what's your take?

I say let him go as he wasn't going to be a big player on the team anyways. I know it's not the opinion most have. He wasn't going to get enough PT in his opinion so he's doing what's best for him.

I know there are rumors of tampering... we'll see how that plays out.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

NBA mock drafts... where does Torrance sit?

He's getting some love out there.

NBAdraft.net has him mid 2nd round to the LA Lakers. They sure could use a versatile PG to replace Derek Fisher.

Draftexpress.com has him 2nd round as well... to the Celtics.

TheHoopsreport.com has him late 2nd round going to the Mavericks.


Hoopsworld.com
has him as a late 1st rounder to the Orlando Magic. Let's hope for that one to come true... guaranteed $$.

Imagine how good Torrance could've been with solid coaching and PT throughout his 4 years at the Capstone. If he gets drafted and makes the team I might end up watching the NBA again.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Marcus Thornton Takes His Visit

The jury is still out.  He still plans to visit Kentucky, Georgia and Georgia Tech.  I guess M$U's already reached their salary cap.  ;-)