The tweets have been arriving for weeks in JaMychal Green's in-box, notes from Crimson Tide fans telling him that they're experiencing a new feeling when it comes to Alabama basketball: optimism. "Every day I get new followers on Twitter telling me how excited they are for this season," says Green, a 6'8", 228-pound senior forward. "Our job this year is to prove that Alabama isn't just a football school. Now we're a basketball school as well."
These are heady days for a program that has its top three scorers back from a team that went 19--0 at home last season, won the SEC West and—after getting snubbed by the NCAA selection committee—advanced to the NIT finals, where the Tide lost to Wichita State. "We now have experienced players to lean on," says coach Anthony Grant. "Our identity is playing hard, aggressive defense, but we also need to shoot the ball better to be a more well-rounded offense."
Last season the Tide ranked seventh in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency (88.7), but on offense Alabama hit only 29.8% of its three-point shots. "We all have worked tremendously hard on our outside shooting this off-season," says Green, an All-SEC player who averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 50.8% from the field. "Plus, we've got help on the way."
In what was his biggest recruiting victory among the three classes he has signed since coming to Tuscaloosa, Grant landed sharp-shooting guard Trevor Lacey, out of Butler High in Huntsville, Ala. The 6'3", 200-pound Lacey chose the Tide over Kansas and Kentucky. A two-time Mr. Basketball in his home state, Lacey averaged 31.4 points a game as a senior, and his high school coach, Jack Doss, labeled him the best player in the history of Alabama high school basketball. Having Lacey in the lineup should open up space inside for Green and junior Tony Mitchell, who scored 20 or more points in six of his last 17 games.
"This is by far the most talent we've had on this team since I've been here," says Green. "Now it's up to us to put it all together and show that we can be just as successful as the football team."
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
COACH Anthony Grant (3rd season)
2010--11 RECORD 25--12 SEC 12--4 (1st, West)
NCAA TOURNAMENT Not selected
*High school stats
13 NUMBER OF TEAMS
Alabama will play this season that finished in the top 100 of the RPI in 2010--11. The Crimson Tide missed the Big Dance largely due to a weak nonconference schedule.
Trevor Lacey becomes one of the top freshmen in the nation, and his hot shooting helps Alabama advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.
'Bama's five freshmen never jell with the big three of JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford, and Alabama again winds up in the NIT.
BRUCE L. SCHWARTZMAN
JAMYCHAL GREEN The senior and his teammates have worked hard on their shooting, the biggest weakness for the Tide last year.