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June 25, 2012By Brett Hudson
TUSCALOOSA | Alabama men's basketball is catching eyes nationwide, both of the fans and the experts.
Seeing as this success comes just comes just three seasons removed from a 5-11 Southeastern Conference record and an absence of postseason play for only the second time in a decade, most of the success is attributed to the program's leader, Anthony Grant.
"I think he's headed in the right direction, building the program the right way," Alabama women's basketball coach Wendell Hudson said. "He's adding good players every year."
Alabama's consistent improvement under Grant has demanded the attention of his counterparts in coaching. He suffered through a 17-15 campaign in 2009-2010 before capping a 25-12 2010-11 season with a berth in the NIT championship game. The reason for Alabama's improvement under Grant is clear to his peers, even those who witness it from afar.
"He had another year to get his program in place," said Tubby Smith, now entering his sixth year as the coach at Minnesota after a 10-year stint with Kentucky. "It takes time to grow the program and get the type of players that fit his system and fit his style."
Smith thinks Grant has just that, noting that Grant's team has the ability to, "really extend their defenses and push the ball up and down the court."
How Grant has gotten his team to where it is now is what truly impresses those around him.
"I think Coach Grant and his staff has done a really great job," Hudson said. "One of the things that they've done is getting a core of players from Alabama (Rodney Cooper, Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph). Those guys are going to be sophomores next year and now they added the kid from Mississippi (Devonta Pollard). If they can get some help down in the post, I think they'll have all the ingredients."
"I tell people all the time that we may not sign every player we bring in here, but every player liked Alabama and what we had to offer," Hudson said.
Now that Grant has led the team to the NCAA Tournament, he no longer has optimism aiding him and now has expectations weighing on him. With a wealth of young talent and more talent on the way, Grant has to find a way to keep his team together through changes while improving on what he has done to keep an increasingly hungry fan base at ease.
"Chemistry is an overused term, but that is a very important term here," Hudson said. "You could tell at the end of the season last year, they started liking each other. I'm not talking about just liking each other buddy-buddy, I'm talking about liking each other on the court."
With the obstacles that lie ahead, those who laud Grant remain confident in his abilites.
"He's fundamentally sound," Hudson said. "His team always plays tough, really hard-nosed defense. Then, the commitment that he's getting out of his players to the program.
There's one thing that coaches always talk about that I think Coach Grant is doing a great job of right now: There's compliance and there's commitment. The commitment that he's getting out of his group of guys is getting all of his guys to be as good as they can be." Smith, with a national championship and nine Sweet 16 berths on his resume, added, "You can't find a finer coach than Anthony Grant."