Coach Avery Johnson showcased his Alabama basketball squad on Monday night as the team held Tide Tip Off in conjunction with the women’s team. Somewhere in the vicinity of 4,500-5,000 people showed up and were treated to a high flying, fast paced, scrimmage game, won by the White team by a score of 64-52. The game was played with two, 12 minutes halves.
The doors opened at 6 p.m. for an autograph session. One player from the women’s team and one from the men’s team were paired at tables spread through the mezzanine with posters available for signatures. Coach Johnson and women’s coach Kristy Curry sat together and had the longest lines throughout the hour.
After a snazzy introduction the women played a 12 minute game, won by the Crimson team 22-6. The ladies showed some deadly outside shooting and seem to have good size on the inside.
The men were then brought out with the lights out and a fog machine blowing. Fans were given foam light up thunder sticks to use during the introductions and they made for a good atmosphere. The starting teams consisted of: White team, Herbert Jones, Daniel Giddens, John Petty, Avery Johnson, Jr, and Alex Reese. The Crimson countered with Dazon Ingram, Riley Norris, Galin Smith, Donta Hall, and Tevin Mack. Highly regarded freshman Kira Lewis was first off the bench for the Crimson team.
The first half ended with the White ahead 34-23, as Herbert Jones did pretty much everything— blocking shots, handling the ball, and scoring on a number of dunks in the first stanza. Hall and Giddens were both very active and Lewis showed flashes, as he gave fans a glimpse of his quickness and shooting ability. Lewis will not even be 18 until April, and in fact should be a high school senior right now, but reclassified and joined the Tide in August. Lewis was ranked the 39th best player in the class of 2019 before finishing school early and enrolling at the Capstone.
At half time, Johnson grabbed four students out of the stands for a shooting contest with the winner receiving a new pair of basketball shoes. One of the four was Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts. Johnson made it a point to tell the crowd that, because of NCAA rules, Hurts would not be eligible to win the prize. One student, Taylor something, hit his shot and won the shoes. Jalen hit front rim on his first attempt, but got a mulligan from Johnson and drained the 15 footer.
Johnson was mic’d up and as his normal was talking throughout, both coaching the players and giving information to the crowd. He stopped play to explain a couple of plays, and to explain how he wants the team to play this season. Johnson mentioned that the team is going to play fast and try to utilize the middle of the court this year. The coach mentioned that to often last season that they played to the side of the court way to often.
Several players shined, but none more than sophomore Herbert Jones. Although no stats were available, Jones was by far the leading scorer and never took a shot that wasn't a dunk or layup. Jones also grabbed several rebounds, blocked a few shots, and added some steals. The highlight was when he blocked a dunk attempt by Ingram at one end, grabbed the rebound, and assisted on a basket at the other end. Jones is being looked at as a first round draft pick, and he sure plays the part of an NBA player. One possible draw back may be the lack of an outside shot, but he can definitely develop one. Hall showed off his high flying game with several dunks of his own, with good work on the boards and on the defensive end. Giddens looks to be more comfortable on the floor tonight.
The team looks to be deep and talented, which they will have to be as they face a tough slate of out of conference games, and a very good group of teams in the SEC. Despite the loss of Collin Sexton to the NBA the Tide looks to be deeper, and overall more talented entering the season. Mack and Lewis will be great additions to the returning players and it looks as coach Johnson is building a program the right way, with stellar recruiting and a talented transfer here and there.
The event was exciting, and much better than last seasons, which had more of a NBA All Star week feel. Instead of dunk contests and three point shooting the game was a nice touch to show the fans what these player could do. Being held at 6 p.m. on a Monday night could probably been thought through a little better, but a lot of students came out, buoyed by free pizza and tee shirts, as well as the ability to sit wherever they wanted to. The energy in the building was good, and the crowd stayed engaged.
I look for a successful season from the Tide, and expect a very fast, exciting, brand of basketball. The days of Grantsketball are gone, folks, so BUCKLE UP and Roll Tide.