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December 14, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Today will be something of a homecoming for University of Alabama basketball coach Anthony Grant, but nostalgia will be the last thing on his mind.
The Crimson Tide visits Virginia Commonwealth, the school that Grant left for UA in 2009, for a 3 p.m. tipoff.
"That never goes into my train of thought. It's never about me, it's about our team. VCU has an excellent team that we have to get prepared for," Grant said. "I think (VCU coach) Shaka (Smart) and his staff have done a tremendous job with their team. They're a difficult matchup with the way they play. They're a very talented team that I know, from coaching there, that the environment will be electric. The focus is to try to prepare my team to go in there and perform well and try to get a win. I'm sure I'll see a lot of familiar faces. It will be great to see people, but right now my focus is trying to get my team prepared to go in there and compete."
Grant recorded a 76-25 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances in three seasons at VCU before agreeing to replace Mark Gottfried at Alabama. VCU (6-3) enters today's game on a three-game win streak. Two of its losses have come at the hands of nationally ranked programs in Duke and Missouri.
Grant will look to end a two-game losing streak with only eight healthy scholarship players. Alabama learned this week it has lost center Carl Engstrom for the season to a knee injury, and guard Andrew Steele for four to six weeks with a sports hernia rehabilitation. After Alabama's most recent loss to Dayton, Grant expressed concerns about the team's focus. On Thursday, he indicated players need a better understanding of expectations.
"I've got to do a better job of making sure our guys understand what the expectations are, in terms of the way we play, the intensity we bring on the defensive end, the discipline, the focus," he said. "From an offensive standpoint, making sure we execute and do the things we're supposed to do. That's my job as a coach. Individually, the challenge is there for individual players to do better. We've got to do better individually and collectively. Obviously, that's not done overnight. Those things can be revealed through winning. But when you have back-to-back losses like we have, it makes it even more heightened, makes you more aware. At the same time, when you win, it's never as good as it seems. When you lose it's never as bad as it seems."
TideSports.com: Alabama All-Stars recruiting notes
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.