First Impressions: 2023-24 Bama hoops
You only get one chance to make a first impression and Friday morning was that time for myself concerning the revamped Alabama basketball team. Conclusion: Nate Oats taught high school math, but he is darn good at chemistry, too.
Nine of the twelve scholarship players are new to the program, but you would not know that watching them play together. They are beginning to gel already, and that is indeed chemistry.
. After watching a two-hour workout including a 20-minute good-on-good scrimmage, here are some impressions this mostly new group made on this writer.
Sam Walters is the truth
No one, even the Bama coaching staff, though the 6-10 Florida freshman would score 29 points in Sunday's four-point scrimmage loss to TCU in Birmingham. After watching Walters' silky-smooth stroke behind the arc, I get it. He can flat shoot the rock. His defense is a work in progress, but his shot will keep Walters in the playing rotation this season whether he starts or not. He will have a role.
Grant Nelson is a worthy Karl Malone Award nominee
Nelson can play literally all five positions, and for being 6-11, that is impressive. His ball-handling on the break is impressive as are his passing and rebounding. He will quickly become a Coleman Coliseum fan favorite because he loves to dunk on people. His shot behind the arc is a work in progress but he can hit them.
It's not hard to see why Walters was one of 20 power forwards nominated this week for the Karl Malone Award. He will play a huge role for Oats and the Tide.
Aaron Estrada is a floor general
Oats likes all his guards to be able to play the one and two spots, meaning point guard and shooting guard, and Estrada can do that. He is quite the playmaker with his passing and he can finish at the rim ala the departed Jahvon Quinerly. He can make three's at a fair clip, enough to keep a defense honest.
Jarin Stevenson is headed for a freshman All-SEC team year
After graduating early from high school, the 6-10 Chapel Hill, NC native spurned the home town team to head to Tuscaloosa. The Noah Clowney comps are accurate, but Stevenson is a better shooter from distance than was first-pick Clowney. They are built similarly. Like Clowney, Stevenson is deadly on the receiving end of alley-oop dunks. He will also be a key rebounder whether he starts or not.
Projected starting five
G Estrada, G Mark Sears, SF Rylan Griffen though his three-ball needs more consistency, PF Nelson and C Nick Pringle.
Top subs early on
G Latrell Wrightsell, a defensive stopper, PF Stevenson, PF/SF Walters, C Mohamed Wague, a solid center who loves to rebound and block shots. Wague is pictured below.
Patience will be needed
Freshman SF/PF Kris Parker is very athletic but is probably the 10th man now and Oats rarely exceeds nine in his rotation. He could increase his role later in the season. SF Davin Cosby doesn't look ready to contribute yet. PF Mouhamed Dioubate has battled an injury is not full speed.
Bama has an exhibition at Wake Forest Sunday at noon with no video streaming. The Wake Forest radio broadcast can be heard by downloading the WFU Athletics app. The regular season opens Monday, Nov. 6 at home against Morehead State, with tip time set for 7 p.m. CT. The game can heard on 1230 AM WTBC.
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