While football dominates the headlines this time of year, the Alabama basketball team is going through some summer training as well and getting in shape for the 2012-13 season, where it will try to improve on an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“Workout, class, workout, study hall, start all over again,” guard Trevor Lacey said about the summer schedule. “We’re just trying to get better and better as a team.”
The team is just short of its full roster with a couple of players not in Tuscaloosa for the summer. Point guard Retin Obasohan (Belgium) and center Carl Engstrom (Sweden) are playing for their respective national teams, while point guard Trevor Releford is back in his hometown of Kansas City, Mo. working out this summer.
Several members of the team, however, took time out of their Saturday to work at a basketball camp for underprivileged kids at Plum Grove Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa. The camp was put on by Sarrell Dental Center, which is a non profit pediatric dentistry for kids, and hosted at Plum Grove.
Lacey, along with fellow guards Rodney Cooper and Ben Eblen; forwards Andrew Steele and Levi Randolph; and centers Moussa Gueye and Nick Jacobs spent the day teaching the campers – who ranged from 6-7 years old all the way through high school – basic skills like rebounding and free throws.
“This is something we do on our own,” Steele said. “It’s times like this where a lot of times you see athletes making the pages for the wrong reasons. So we’re trying to be proactive and trying to get out there and be a good role model so they can have someone to look up to.”
Also making an appearance at the camp was former Tide star Tony Mitchell. Mitchell averaged 13.1 points and seven rebounds per game last season, but was suspended on February 6 and did not return for the rest of the season. He has been participating in the NBA Summer League with the Sacramento Kings, but was back in Tuscaloosa volunteering at the camp.
“He’s doing really well for himself. But I think he understands even when you leave the program, you get to bigger and better things, it’s always good to be able to come back and help,” Steele said about his former teammate. “You never know that one kid that you could influence and that could be the biggest influence for him, and that’s something positive.”
Mitchell declined interview requests.
Pollard impresses early
One storyline that Crimson Tide fans will want to keep an eye on as the basketball season approaches is how freshman Devonta Pollard fits in with Alabama’s system.
Pollard, a five-star prospect from Mississippi, committed to Alabama on June 1 and was the Tide’s lone signee for the class of 2012. But already, Pollard is showing why he was so highly touted out of high school.
“He’s really athletic. He’s living up to all the hype,” Steele said. “He’s going to play a huge part. Obviously as a freshman it’s going to be tough, but before the year’s over with he’s going to be a real big part of our success so we’re glad to have him.”
“Just the athleticism,” Eblen said. “He’s active, high-flyer, around the rim. He’ll definitely be a contributor early.”
And it didn’t take long for him to open some eyes around the team.
“I remember the first day he came and played pickup, and somebody missed a shot and he came and just dunked it back from a couple steps inside the free throw line,” Steele said. “It reminded me of Tony Mitchell a lot, but even more athletic, if you can imagine that.”
“You can’t teach talent,” Jacobs said. “That motor, energy, rebounding, power dunks.”
“He can jump. Really high,” Randolph said.
Gueye recovering well from torn ACL
Center Moussa Gueye played much of last season partially injured from an ACL tear he sustained in late August. He was back on the court just four months later, but was still noticeably limited and never got up to full speed.
Gueye says he still doesn’t feel 100 percent, but is getting closer every day.
“My body wasn’t feeling right the way it was [during the season]. But now I’m getting better with the help of the trainers,” he said. “Not 100 [percent], but I’m getting close. I feel like I’m getting my explosiveness back. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”
Gotcha. Or not.
The Alabama players in attendance, plus Mitchell and student manager Alex Fain, played a game of “Gotcha” for the campers during a break in the action. Gueye sunk a three-pointer to eliminate Cooper, and Lacey returned the favor, taking out Gueye with a three of his own.
In the end, it came down to Eblen and Fain, and in the upset of the century (OK, maybe not) Fain took down Eblen to claim the title.
“That hurt. But it’s all fun,” Eblen joked afterwards.
Check out Wednesday’s Crimson White for a full report on the different activities and events as well as the players’ thoughts on giving back to the community.
Filed Under: Men's Basketball