Top Prospects To Watch For On Alabama’s February Schedule
The Southeastern Conference has become one of the premier conferences in college basketball. Teams like Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Auburn, and Kentucky have all shown that they have what it takes to get the job done in March. The Crimson Tide are playing at a level not seen in Tuscaloosa in over 20 years and have positioned themselves quite well for a championship run. The Tide are undefeated in conference play up to this point, but will be tested in February against strong road opponents led by some players we’ll be seeing in the NBA next year. Here’s a look at some of the top NBA prospects that the Tide will meet in February, in no particular order.
PG/SG Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas) – Probably the best prospect on Bama’s February schedule and the most interesting situation is Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. The freshman guard has been held out of games since Dec. 17 due to a lingering right knee injury. Arkansas coach Eric Musselman noted two weeks ago that Smith Jr. was sent to Los Angeles to meet with a specialist on his knee injury, but has since returned to practice with the team. The timetable for Smith Jr’s return is still unknown but with Arkansas’ matchup with the Tide not coming for another month, it is expected that the former McDonald’s All-American should be able to return to the court in time.
The Crimson Tide will host Arkansas on Feb. 25 at Coleman Coliseum. Nick Smith Jr. is a projected top-10 pick in this year’s NBA draft.
SG/SF Anthony Black (Arkansas) – With Smith Jr. out most of the season with an injury, combo-guard Anthony Black has stepped up to lead the Razorbacks on both ends of the floor. The 6’7” point forward is averaging 12.5 PPG this year shooting 44.8% and 32.8% from behind the arc. Black’s game is highlighted by his hustle on defense as well as his length above the rim. The Crimson Tide were able to hold Black to just 5 points in their last meeting despite Black averaging just over 13 PPG in SEC play.
Anthony Black is projected to be a top-15 pick in this year’s NBA draft.
PF GG Jackson (South Carolina) – Jackson has played extremely well for the Gamecocks averaging over 16 points and 7 rebounds per game. The 6’9” freshman has the ability to be a wrecking ball in the paint at any level and is showing that potential this year. Jackson has great mobility for a big man and is dangerous in transition as he’s able to run the floor with just about anybody. With a 6’10” wingspan, he measures a little smaller than most big men his height, but at just 18 years old, he can still fill-out well enough to compete in the NBA. Unlike many his size, Jackson has the ability to create shots off the dribble and drive which is what makes him such a hard man to cover at the college level.
The Crimson Tide will travel up to Columbia, SC to take on Jackson and the Gamecocks on Feb. 22. Jackson projects as a mid-to-late first round pick in this year’s NBA draft.
SF Julian Phillips (Tennessee) – Alabama forward Brandon Miller will have his work cut out for him when the Tide travel to Knoxville to take on Phillips and the Volunteers. Phillips is averaging 9.7 PPG and while he isn’t somebody you have to spotlight when the Vols are on offense, the defensive presence that Phillips possesses is one that opposing teams have struggled with all season. The 6’7” forward has all the traits to develop into a standout defender that can guard up and down any opposing lineup.
The Crimson Tide travel to Knoxville on Feb. 15 to take on the Volunteers in one of the most hyped-up games on the college basketball calendar. Phillips projects as a late-first early-second round pick in this year’s NBA draft.
SF Jordan Walsh (Arkansas) – One of the most underrated players in the upcoming draft, Walsh has the ability to become one the most versatile players on the board. The 6’7” combo forward has a 7’3” wingspan and is a plus-defender, able to guard up to four positions on the court. On the offensive side of the ball, Walsh has all the mechanics to become a lethal shooter from range but lacks the efficiency, shooting just 27.7% from behind the arc. Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide will have their work cut out for them if Smith Jr., Black, and Walsh are all available to play in their matchup as the Razorbacks could be a dangerous team come the end of February.
Walsh projects to be a mid-to-late second round pick in this year’s NBA draft.