November 3, 2006

Alabama basketball ready to tip off

College basketball's official tip-off is still a week away but fans will get a chance to watch the 2006-07 Tide in a competitive game this weekend when the Tide faces Division II Montevallo in an exhibition game at Coleman Coliseum. Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried has been pleased with what he's seen of his team so far but looks forward to seeing how his team does against another team.

"We need to start shifting gears to where we can field 8 or 9 guys," Gottfried said. "Montevallo as an exhibition game should prove to be a pretty good challenge for us. They finished in the top 8 last year in Division II and we were hoping when we scheduled an exhibition game to play a very good basketball team. With the rules the way they are now, you have to play collegiate teams and I think Montevallo is going to be a very good team and a good challenge for our guys."

Gottfried hopes believes the coaches and player at Montevallo will the Tide with an excellent challenge to prepare them for the season.

"I expect they have scouted us pretty well. They'll know everything we do and that will help them give us a challenge. I don't mind saying we're supposed to beat them but I want to see us play well. Montevallo is one of the best Division II teams in the country and they are going to help prepare us for the season."

The Tide's recent public exhibition in the Crimson and White scrimmage showed fans they have plenty to be excited about and Gottfried said he was happy to see some new faces playing well along with his returning veterans.

"I think the scrimmage was a good opportunity for our guys, especially the young guys. I thought everyone did pretty well. When you watch it on tape, there are still a lot things that can be improved."

"Mykal Riley jumped out there as a new player and Yamene Coleman and Demetrius Jemison both looked good as well. Mikhail Torrance did a really good job as well."

Coleman, who redshirted last season with the Tide, has been one name Gottfried has keyed on in the preseason as a newcomer worth watching.

"I think he's done a great job and Coach Tom Asbury has done a great job with him. He's still just a freshman but he got bigger and stronger in the weight program and he's going to keep getting better. He's also benefited from going up against Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix all year last year in practice so that's going to make him better as well."

Mykal Riley also proved why he's been the most highly touted of the Tide's newcomers by lighting up the scoreboard with 22 points in the first half of the Crimson and White scrimmage.

"It wasn't a surprise," Gottfried said. "He's had one or two days in practice that were similar to last night. I don't think there are a lot of games where he'll get 22 points in a half but I loved how aggressive he was shooting the ball and that's what we want him to be. You hope that as a junior college player he doesn't come in and tip-toe around like a freshman. He played like he's been in college for a couple years."

"He's still struggling with man-to-man defense because he's coming from a system that runs zone defense exclusively."

Demetrius Jemison also had a strong showing in the scrimmage and figures to be a contributor in the post for the Tide this season.

"Demetrius has been a pleasant surprise," Gottfried. "What he can do is really give you a presence for defending and rebounding. He's got great hands and can find a way to put the ball in the basketball anywhere inside of 7 feet or so. He's undersized but it doesn't bother him and he plays bigger than his actual height."

Gottfried is ready to take his team down to its core group of players but that doesn't mean some of the other young players don't have a chance to make an impact as the season goes on.

"Pretty much to this point in practice, we've tried to keep things even every day and let everybody play with the first group but now there comes a point where you have to shift gears and start to get your guys together. That doesn't mean if you're not in the top 7 or 8 guys that you can't find yourself in there later but you have to start to build your team and then you can zero in on your weaknesses and deficiencies."

"Basketball is a lot different than football. You want depth and you need depth but in basketball you want to get your team into a rhythm by about midseason where they have good chemistry between about 8 and 9 regular players. If you watch good teams, they have great chemistry between their top guys."

"I think different players in different games will do different things for us. That's the beauty of having some guys off the bench who can play. There may be some nights when Yamene gets double figures and nights when it's someone else."

Meanwhile, the anticipation continues to grow for Tide basketball this season, as ticket sales have already shown a boost in enthusiasm.

"I was told the Kentucky game sold out in about an hour and one or two other SEC games were close to being sold out as well," Gottfried said. "The ticket office said this is one of the best starts they've had in 10 or 12 years. I love that, it's great to have some enthusiasm and excitement around the program."

Gottfried has always put an emphasis on creating competitive schedules for the Tide to help prepare them for the NCAA Tournament and this year's slate is no exception.

"I think it's a good schedule," Gottfried said. "I wouldn't have minded playing one or two more marquee matchups but I still think our schedule is very good. We've got some tough road games in December. The trip to the Virgin Islands will give us some good tests and Oklahoma coming in is obviously a big game as well. You can't always work it out this way, but we tried to find teams that we feel like are going to compete for their conference championship. It helps you first in your RPI ratings but it also helps you by making you play good basketball and be competitive."

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