TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama men's basketball team will host its season-opener tonight - but it may be a sequel to The Magnificent Seven as UA faces South Dakota State.
Injuries combined with a small squad size limited the Crimson Tide to just seven scholarship players in action in its exhibition season-opener against Stillman College on Tuesday. And while coach Anthony Grant said Thursday he was "hopeful" swingman Andrew Steele and center Carl Engstrom could return, he added that they were "gametime decisions" and that reserve point guard Retin Obasahan remained doubtful after suffering a lacerated finger that required 10 stitches.
Grant indicated that he would use walk-ons if necessary and added that his team could go 10 deep if necessary.
"We've got 10 guys who are available that we have to get prepared to play, that will play and we need all of them," Grant said. "I feel like we have 10 quality guys that can help our basketball team and my job as a coach is to put those guys out there in positions where they can do what they do best and help our team win."
Grant cautioned that Alabama had drawn a difficult opening opponent in the 2K Classic field.
"After having a chance to watch South Dakota State on film, I'm extremely impressed with them," Grant said. "You look at what they were able to accomplish last year; winning their league, advancing into the NCAA Tournament, and playing Baylor in a great, highly contested game.
"They are returning four starters back off of that team, a lot of veteran players return as well. [They are] a very, very talented team. Their point guard (Nate Wolters) is probably a Preseason Player of the Year, potential All-American candidate. He's an excellent player, kind of reminds me of a kid I coached at VCU by the Name of Eric Maynor, A lot of the same qualities except Wolters is a little bit bigger at 6-4. He really affects the game, helps his team and makes the game easier for his teammates.
"They've got some veteran guys around him, really impressed with how they shoot the basketball. I think they have 3 guys on their team that shot somewhere between 45-50% from the 3 point line. They have good size, tough team. It will be a great challenge for our guys from a defensive standpoint, to be able to contain them. From an offensive standpoint, being able to find quality shots and do the things that we need to do to put ourselves in a position to win."
The Jackrabbits won their preseason exhibition game, defeating Black Hills (S.D) State 89-66 on Tuesday. Taevaunn Prince, a reserve, led SDSU in scoring with 17 points while Wolters added nine points and five assists.
Sophomore center Nick Jacobs was Alabama's leading scorer in its win over Stillman with 16 points.
The Wounded Warrior Project benefits from the 2K Classic. Bradley Ford, an Iraq veteran, Dadeville native and lifelong Crimson Tide fan, has been chosen to represent Wounded Warriors at tonight's game and will be seated behind the Alabama bench.
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Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.