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February 28, 2012

Green playing final home game

TUSCALOOSA | The road hasn't always been straight for JaMychal Green. There have been twists and turns and, on a couple of occasions, unscheduled stops along the way. But there is no arguing that the University of Alabama basketball team's only senior has grown on the journey - and helped the Crimson Tide program grow as well.

Green, a Montgomery native, will take the Coleman Coliseum floor for the final time tonight as Alabama closes out its regular season at home against Auburn. He'll leave with a strong statistical legacy, ranking in the top 15 Crimson Tide players on the all-time scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking charts. But his greatest contribution may be yet to come, if Alabama can break its long NCAA Tournament drought. And while Green's recent four-game suspension frustrated fans, he says that goal - a team goal - remains atop his list.

"It'd be pretty big," Green said of a possible NCAA trip. "I've never been there. It'd be a great experience for everybody on the team. It's just the way I want to go out. But we are trying to keep looking at one game at a time."

Green admitted that his senior season - which included a recently ended four-game suspension - "could have gone better." He declined, when asked, to discuss the details of the suspension ("it's water under the bridge"), although he did add that he was "frustrated at himself" for "getting (myself) in this position again."

However, Green played well off the bench in his return in last Saturday's win over Mississippi State and will likely be back in the starting rotation against Auburn, according to coach Anthony Grant.

The Crimson Tide coach was also reluctant to discuss Green's recent suspension, instead focusing on the senior's contributions to the team over his four-year career.

"I think that probably the biggest thing with Mike is that I think over the course of three years, just the growth that you've seen in his game," Grant said. "I think his game has grown and developed. I think he's matured and has grown in that area, and in terms of his growth as a person.

"I think Mike is very grateful that he's got this opportunity to finish his career out, to go through Senior Night and to enjoy whatever time he have left with his teammates and the experience that he's had here at Alabama.

"When I first came in (as coach), Mike talked about was his pride of being from Alabama and wanting to represent the University of Alabama. To bring back the tradition of postseason participation and add to the tradition that's been here at Alabama. I think when you look at the course of his career, you can say what you want, but I think he's helped us in terms of getting the program back on track, in terms of playing for the NIT Championship last year and hopefully putting ourselves in a position this year where we could possibly get back to the postseason and hopefully the NCAA tournament.

"When you look at it, what you want to see is a building process. People, especially your seniors, add to the foundation of what you're trying to build. When you look at the whole body of work, I think you look at Mike as someone that's helped build that foundation."

In addition to Senior Night, of course, Alabama (19-9, 8-6 SEC) looks to enhance its NCAA resume. Auburn, which comes in at 14-14, 4-10 in the SEC, would like to earn a season split against the Crimson Tide. Alabama won the first meeting in Auburn, 68-50, on Feb. 7.

There are uncertainties about the rosters on both sides, as Alabama freshman guard Trevor Lacey is still slowed by a bad ankle and Auburn coach Tony Barbee has not issued a final decision on suspended guards Varez Ward and Chris Denson.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban and members of the 2011 BCS Champion Crimson Tide team will be on hand at halftime for the presentation of the ODK Sportsmanship Trophy, given annually to the winner of the Alabama-Auburn football game.

Reach Cecil Hurt t cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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