What we learned about Alabama basketball heading into Tide Tipoff
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Alabama basketball team held an open practice Wednesday as the media was able to get a fresh look at the Crimson Tide heading into Friday’s Tide Tipoff event. Here’s what we learned.
Alabama still waiting for word on Quinerly
As the upcoming season approaches, Alabama is still unsure of Villanova transfer Jahvon Quinerly's eligibility status. The point guard joined the Crimson Tide this summer and has submitted a hardship waiver in an attempt to gain instant eligibility. However, with Alabama’s season-opener against Penn less than three weeks away, the NCAA has not released a ruling.
“I haven’t really got frustrated too much just because it hasn’t affected it any,” head coach Nate Oats said when asked about the NCAA slow proceedings in the matter. “(Quinerly) can practice. But we’ve got a scrimmage coming up this weekend. It’d be nice if we could get an answer before then. If not, some other guys will get more minutes than maybe they would have. We’ll just wait. The NCAA knows when our scrimmage and exhibition and games are coming, so hopefully, we get an answer here sometime soon.”
Quinerly’s eligibility waiver is centered around the hardship he faced after being linked to the recent federal probe into college basketball corruption. The former five-star recruit was set to attend Arizona out of high school but switched his commitment to Villanova after he was involved in the FBI probe and accused of taking money from former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson. The accusations against Quinerly were dropped in June after Richardson’s lawyer said Richardson “made it clear” he never paid Quinerly or his family.
Alabama has a closed scrimmage against Jacksonville State on Sunday and will host Georgia Tech in a charity exhibition game on Oct. 27. The Crimson Tide will open its season on Nov. 5 against Penn inside Coleman Coliseum.
Oats, Petty respond to McLemore’s dig at Alabama
Alabama won’t play Auburn until January but Tigers forward Anfernee McLemore is already starting to stoke the flames of the rivalry. Talking in front of reporters at SEC Basketball Media Day in Birmingham, Ala., McLemore said Coleman Coliseum is his favorite venue to play in outside of Auburn Arena.
"I like the look of disappointment on their faces when we win,” he said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Anfernee McLemore's favorite place to play in the SEC outside of Auburn Arena? At Alabama in Tuscaloosa.— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) October 16, 2019
"I like the look of disappointment on their faces when we win."
Oats responded to McLemore’s comments later in the day.
“Shoot, I wasn’t here,” he said. “I haven’t seen any disappointment yet. We’ll see if he sees any disappointment here this year.
“How many times has McLemore played here? So is he 3-0 in here or what is he?”
McLemore is 2-1 inside Coleman Coliseum. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward averaged 4.67 points, 4 rebounds and shot a combined 5 of 16 (31.25 percent) in those games.
Alabama will host Auburn on Jan. 15 before traveling to Auburn on Feb. 12.
“We’ll see,” Alabama guard John Petty Jr. said of McLemore’s comments. “That’s what I say.”
Bolden back in action
Wednesday’s practice provided a first look at graduate transfer James “Beetle” Bolden who is back working with the team after having his shoulder “cleaned up a little bit over the summer.” The 6-foot, 160-pound guard was West Virginia’s second-highest scorer last season, averaging 12.2 points per game. He led the Mountaineers averaging 1.1 steals and was tied for the team lead with 2.5 assists per game.
“Beetle’s great, I mean he played so hard at West Virginia," Oats said. "He steps in, takes charges. He’s not even fully cleared yet, and you can see him in the live drills he’s able to participate in, he’s taking charges, scrappy and getting on the floor for loose balls. He gets his hands on a lot of balls, so he’s going to be big with the way we want to play. And he shoots the ball so well, spaces the floor.”
Bolden joined the team this summer and is the only senior on the Crimson Tide’s roster. He placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal in March and was originally recruited by Oats in Buffalo before the head coach took the job at Alabama.
“What just attracted me here was Coach Oats,” Bolden said. “He was actually our first game last year at West Virginia. The way he ran his offense, I like the way they play, so it was definitely one of the options coming out to put my name into the portal. Once I got here, it just felt like family, a home for me, and I just fell in love with everything.”
Bolden should provide relief for Lewis at the point
While Bolden and Kira Lewis Jr. worked on separate teams during Wednesday’s practice, the two could see plenty of time together on the court this season. Bolden worked alongside Quinerly on Wednesday with both guards taking turns with ball-handling duties. Following the workout, Oats said the versatility of his roster should allow him to experiment with how he uses his guards this season.
“We sat down at the roster once we got the job here, and Kira, he had to handle the ball a lot last year,” Oats said. “He’s able to play off the ball because he scores it so well. I think you’d be smart to use him on and off the ball… Beetle enables us to do that a little bit. Herb (Jones) enables us to do that a little bit. If Quinnerly gets cleared we can do that a little bit. So we’ve got some options to kind of relieve Kira of his ball-handling duties at various points in the game and still keep him on the floor.”
Oats explains how the exhibition against Georgia Tech came about
Following its scrimmage against Jacksonville State on Sunday, Alabama will host Georgia Tech the following Sunday, Oct. 27, at noon CT for an exhibition game inside Coleman Coliseum. Proceeds for the game will go towards the American Red Cross Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund.
Wednesday, Oats talked about what went into planning the charity exhibition, stating the idea of playing Georgia Tech began when he bumped into Yellow Jackets head coach Josh Pastner on the recruiting trail this summer.
“I think it’s important to do an exhibition with somebody just to get the guys in front of a crowd before they actually play a game that matters," he said. "So ideally you do it against a better team that you can find. We had talked to some area teams about doing it, happened to run into (Pastner). He was open to it, and we talked… It helps that we’re doing it on homecoming weekend. Hopefully, there’s a lot of people in town and stick around for an extra day after the football game on Saturday."
The NCAA allows colleges to schedule one of their two possible exhibition games against a Division I opponent as long as it is used to raise funds for a catastrophic event. The exhibition between Alabama and Georgia Tech will be a 40-minute game. It will not be broadcasted on television or radio.
Oats addresses Alabama’s plan after losing Rojas, Gary to injuries
Alabama has already been bitten by the injury bug before the start of the season. This offseason the Crimson Tide has lost two of its top big men as freshman Juwan Gary and JUCO transfer James Rojas both suffered season-ending injuries. The two setbacks leave Alabama with limited options in the frontcourt as Galin Smith, Alex Reese, Javian Davis and Raymond Hawkins are the only remaining scholarship players over 6-foot-8.
“It wasn’t ideal that we lost two guys who essentially played the same spot. But injuries are part of sports, we’ll deal with them,” Oats said. “Probably can’t afford too many more season-ending injuries, but we play small a lot anyways. Herb can play some 4— he’s big enough, long enough. Reese — those two guys are 3-4s. We’ve still got Herb, Petty, big wings, Reese at the 4.
“Javian’s coming along. If we have to go two bigs, we can put him and Galin out there together. We’ve got options. We played pretty small at Buffalo, and we were top 25 in the country all year last year. We can go down and play small. We got really good guards that are playing well right now. We’ll figure it out.”