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February 13, 2012TUSCALOOSA | It is the classic question: is the glass half-empty, or is it half-full?
Does the University of Alabama basketball team have a better chance in tonight's Southeastern Conference matchup with Florida because two key players have returned from a one-game suspension? Or is Alabama still in trouble because two players remain suspended indefinitely.
UA coach Anthony Grant said at his Monday press conference that junior Andrew Steele and sophomore Trevor Releford would "most likely" be available for tonight's nationally televised game after serving a one-game suspension that caused them to miss last Saturday's loss at LSU. But senior JaMychal Green remains suspended for a second game, and junior Tony Mitchell's indefinite suspension has now stretched to a third contest.
Grant said the situation was "different" for Green than for Releford and Steele, without elaborating.
"When you look at Andrew Steele - he's been probably the finest student-athlete that I've coached - he made a mistake," Grant said. "His body of work speaks for itself in terms of who he is as a person and what he's been all about. I was a former student-athlete. You are faced with a lot of different things and you have to make decisions. Sometimes you make the wrong one. I don't think that's any indication of who he is as a person. Same thing with Trevor Releford. He's a young man that's in his sophomore year in college and made a bad choice. I think his teammates understand that. Certainly as a coach, I don't condone it, but I'm not going to condemn him as a human being for making a bad decision. We will move on and get ready to play."
Grant did not indicate if either Releford or Steele would be in tonight's starting lineup. On Saturday, UA started four freshmen - including Rodney Cooper, who poured in 28 points - and Ben Eblen, normally the backup point guard.
No. 12-ranked Florida looking to snap a two-game losing streak, will be missing two players. Forward Will Yeguete, the team's second-leading rebounder, is out after suffering a concussion in Saturday's loss to Tennessee. Guard Mike Rosario, the Gators' top scorer off the bench at 7.9 points per game, is out with a hip pointer.
Gator coach Billy Donovan praised Grant - his longtime assistant at Florida before moving to Virginia Commonwealth and Alabama - on Monday's SEC teleconference.
"The one thing I do know is that I know Anthony Grant about as well as anybody," Donovan said. "He is a guy that's got incredible integrity, character and knows exactly the way he wants his program run, what he's going to do.
"Going into the game, anytime there's that kind of situation, you're always preparing for a full allotment of players. I don't know what the suspensions will look like when we get to tomorrow night, but for us, we're going into it like they're going to have their full allotment of players. That's the only way you can do it."
Grant said his main concern in facing Florida was the Gators' "offensive explosiveness."
"Florida poses a lot of challenges," he said. "They have several styles of play in terms of their ability to press and create tempo. They've got, from an offensive standpoint, maybe the most explosive team in the league with what they can put on the floor. It's going to take a great effort for us on the defensive end. We've got to take care of the basketball and find quality shots on the other end.
"I don't think Florida has quite the size that LSU has. I think Florida hits you with skill at four or five positions that puts different guys on the floor and creates matchup problems. With the way they run their offense, it makes it difficult for you to make sure you cover all the territory that needs to be covered. We will have to use today, as much time as we can, to make sure our guys understand personnel and understand the adjustments we will need to make."
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.