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November 5, 2012The Stillman men's basketball team will face off against Alabama in an exhibition matchup of local teams at 7 tonight at Coleman Coliseum.
Stillman coach Michael Grant is excited about the opportunity to face a Division I program like Alabama, which made it to the NCAA Tournament last year.
"I think it's not only exciting for our team, it's exciting for our college," Grant said. "We haven't played each other in a while. Any time you have an opportunity to play a quality Division I program like Alabama, it's a feather in your hat, and you have got to take advantage of it. I just hope we play well and play hard."
Alabama fell to Creighton in the first round of the tournament last year, but returning players have the Tide ready to compete. Guards Andrew Steele and Trevor Releford and forward Levi Randolph are back, and center Moussa Gueye, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament before last season and played in only 12 games, will look to play a larger role.
For Stillman, Grant has faith in his team, but is making sure that the Tigers are not letting the pressure of being picked to win a division title get to his players' heads.
"We need to be able to win close games," Grant said. "Any time that you're picked to win the league, you're the target for every other team. Everyone is going to give us their best shot. We have to step up to the challenge every time we play a team. As long as we can take care of business, respect our opponents and play hard, we'll be fine."
The lofty expectations for the Tigers come as three players, forward Ladarius Rhone and guards Damian Ford and Jeffery Wherry, made the preseason all-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team.
"We have four of five starters back from last year's team," Grant said. "We think some of the other guys we've brought in should be able to help us. This is a veteran team. We made it to sweet 16 a couple years ago, and a lot of those guys are still playing here. We lost six games last year at the buzzer, so with all those guys back, we have a good nucleus back to help us win those close games."
Also ready to contribute are some new additions to the Tigers.
"We've got a few guys I've thought are going to be some key guys for us," Grant said. "Markeith Madison is going to be a big help to us. Torrean Walker is going to be a big help to us. And we're really excited about a freshman we brought in this year, Maurice Crenshaw. We're very, very excited about him. He can really shoot the basketball."
Once the veterans and the newcomers mesh, Grant hopes to see his team get back to what it does best: shoot well and play up-tempo basketball.
"I think our No. 1 strength is the way we play. I think we play fast. We really get up and down the floor. We really try to make things tough on other teams. That's one of the things we took pride in last year is that we took 33 attempts (per game) last year and finished second in the nation in 3-pointers made per game. We do a good job of shooting the basketball."