Recruiting and Roster Management Plague Alabama Basketball
The University of Alabama made it official on Tuesday when they announced that sophomore guard Trevor Lacey had been
Put your personal feelings toward Anthony Grant aside - good or bad - and take a look at the state of the Alabama basketball program four years after he accepted the head coaching position. It would be difficult for even the staunchest basketball supporter to see the glass as anything but half-empty.
When the season concluded with a hard-fought loss against a rising Maryland team in the NIT, it felt as though the program had been reinvigorated. It might have looked the same as the 12 other L's on paper, but there was plenty more behind that one letter - a packed Coleman Coliseum on a weeknight, non-stop energy from the fans, and optimism from everyone leaving the arena that night. Less than one month later, most of that goodwill has vanished.
Be clear, this conversation isn't a result of Trevor Lacey the player transferring, but the state of the program following another exit. It could have been Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper, or Retin Obasohan and we'd still be having the same discussion. The concerns boil down to two glaring issues - recruiting and roster management. Those two areas of the program will prevent people from ever knowing how good Grant can be in Tuscaloosa. Face it, we haven't seen his system completely in place and now it'll be at least another year before we do. Patience, understandably, is wearing thin.
Alabama fans only have one great class to hang their hat on with the possibly of a second after the newest group joins the team this summer. There's no denying that five-star Devonta Pollard was a great signing a year ago, but one player does not a recruiting class make.
Otherwise, Grant and his staff have seemingly worked hard on the recruiting trail, but the fruits of that labor have not always been enjoyed. In recruiting, finishing second for a player carries as much value as finishing last.
Now, let's take a year-by-year look at the players that have signed with Alabama.
2009 - Grant's first official class included JUCO transfers Charvez Davis and Chris Hines along with the high-flying Tony Mitchell. Point guard Ben Eblen was added late and marked the first Grant-signed player. From that class, Davis and Hines finished out their eligibility while Mitchell was dismissed in 2012 and Eblen opted to forego his final year after earning his diploma.
2010 - This class of five only produced one significant contributor - Trevor Releford. While he's been an All-SEC player for much of his career, he's also had some off the court issues of his own. Carl Engstrom still remains on the roster, but injuries and a learning curve have kept him from contributing more than a handful of bench minutes. They'll both be seniors in 2013.
The other three players - Charles Hankerson, Kendall Durant, and Jason Carter - all left the program prior to the 2012-13 season. As a result, only two players from Grant's first two classes made it to year four.
2011 - Grant produced a tremendous class with high-profile recruits Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, Nick Jacobs, and Rodney Cooper. Add in JUCO Moussa Gueye and Retin Obasohan out of Belgium, and this was the class that would propel the Crimson Tide.
All six of these guys have played significant minutes during the past two season but now two have left the program.
2012 - Devonta Pollard committing late in the process kept Alabama from being shutout in this class. Pollard was a five-star recruit but played didn't make a significant impact during his first season.
So through four classes, 16 total players were signed. Only seven of those players will be on the roster in 2013-14.
2013 - This class consists of three players - Jimmie Taylor, Shannon Hale, and JUCO Algie Key. Throw in Tulane transfer Ricky Tarrant for a total of four new players added to the roster for next season.
That's five recruiting classes for Grant and only 11 scholarship players to show for it - four of those being in their first year.
That brings us directly to roster management, which goes hand-in-hand with the recruiting woes. The biggest challenge last season was depth. Alabama had 10 scholarship players on the team to begin 2012. Some of the blame can be attributed to Hankerson and Eblen leaving unexpectedly, but that doesn't excuse only signing one player.
Grant essentially ate one scholarship last year, and it had a huge effect on the season. Engstrom suffered a knee injury early, Andrew Steele continued to battle his own health problems, and Alabama often found itself with only eight scholarship players on the bench. That's nearly impossible to overcome, but Grant managed to finish in the top four of the SEC. It didn't result in an NCAA birth, but maybe it was the best Alabama could ask for given the circumstances.
2013 was going to be a team full of experienced players, solid depth, and a no-excuse attitude towards the postseason. All hope is not lost, but it's right back to relying on freshmen to contribute significantly, which is essentially where this team has been since Grant arrived.
And unless another player is signed during the summer, Alabama will head into another season without a full compliment of scholarship players. That's inexcusable in an era when you can sign as many as you'd like within the guidelines of 13 total scholarships. The Crimson Tide has stacked the deck against itself going on two years now.
This is supposed to be a stable program.
Grant absolutely deserves another year at the Capstone, and he'll get it. He represents The University of Alabama with class and character. His players graduate. But unless something drastically changes for the better in the next few months, this team will remain in basketball purgatory for yet another season.