“What was that sound?” - you think to yourself as you rake up the leaves in the backyard.
A few minutes later - “There it is again!” you say aloud this time.
Startled, you look up from scooping up the ashes of the annual victory cigar you enjoyed the previous Saturday night to scan the world around you. As the cool wind blows through you, a faint bouncing sound can be made out in between the rustling of the trees.
“My God, it’s time!” you exclaim, as you shuffle in your pocket looking for the car keys. Stumbling into the house, you quickly grab your ‘Ball and Oats’ shirt that you got from that link you saw on Roll ‘Bama Roll back in March, kiss the spouse goodbye, and dart out the door.
It’s nearly November, and basketball season has arrived. The cavernous halls of Coleman Coliseum await a full-capacity, ravenous crowd, and you must not delay any further. For you are not just a Football Only Gump, but an enlightened person of extraordinary measure, and Tide Hoops has made its triumphant return.
It is indeed a return to the hardwood all across America, and Tuscaloosa is certainly no exception. Fresh off arguably the best season in Alabama Basketball history, Nate Oats and his staff will be looking to defend his double-dip of SEC Titles - both regular season and tournament crowns - as the Tide returns to the court on November 9th.
I would be remiss if I didn’t soak up the last remnants of this past season - it was truly a historic one. The players on that roster have forever writ their names in Crimson flame, but I want to specifically give one last shout-out to (Pelicans starter) Herbert Jones, John Petty, and Alex Reese. Those three made the tough transition over from the previous regime and stayed the course, totally buying into what Oats was selling, and it paid off in spades. The season may have ended a bit earlier than everyone wanted in the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn't diminish what those guys accomplished and established at the Capstone.
With that being said, it is time to turn the page. Again, the 2021-22 season is right around the corner. What better time to introduce our new cast of characters for this chapter in Tide Hoops history?
The Superstar - J.D. Davison
Who else could we start with other than McDonald’s All American and two-time Mr. Basketball in the state of Alabama, J.D. Davison? The 6’3 point guard is an absurd athlete, reminiscent of a young Russell Westbrook. He can get into the lane seemingly at will, and has the hops to flush home any finish at the rim. Do yourself a favor and watch at least five minutes of the below video to see what I’m talking about:
He’s a freak, and is a perfect fit in Nate Oats’ up-tempo, breakneck style of pace. His impact this season could very well be in-line with Collin Sexton’s freshman year in 2018. He projects very similarly to Collin - needs to work on his jump-shot and defense to become a lottery pick-level player, but his ball skills and insane athleticism will make him near-impossible to stay in-front of on the offensive end. Make no question about it: J.D. is an elite player and a guy who will almost certainly not be in Tuscaloosa for more than a year.
In the charity scrimmage with Louisiana on Sunday, Davison led all scorers with 19 points, including the final six of the contest for the Tide, which allowed Alabama to hold off the Ragin’ Cajuns 73-68. Having two primary ball-handlers between him and Jahvon Quinerly will be huge for Oats’ club this year, as Alabama struggled at times last season with creating in the half-court whenever Quinerly wasn’t out there.
The Big Man - Charles Bediako
Headlining the 2021 recruiting class alongside Davison is the 6’11 big man from Ontario, Canada - Charles Bediako. His size and length make him a force in the paint, both on the glass and on the defensive end, which is huge for an Alabama team that occasionally had issues dealing with teams that were big and physical on the interior last year. To that point, Bediako isn’t a typical Oats-style of player. He’s a true post. You won’t see him taking a rebound end-to-end or stretching out the defense from the perimeter, but he’ll serve a major role in what was often a missing piece in the paint this past year. Check out some highlights below:
Early practice reports have indicated that Bediako has been dunking everything in sight, as well as working on his quickness and agility to become a much more athletic and fluid finisher than the kid seen in the above video. Quinerly and Davison have teased that their PnR (Pick and Roll) game with Bediako has been deadly. Again, one of Alabama’s only weaknesses last season was having a true big who could protect the rim on one end and finish all around the basket on the other. Bediako will likely be the starting five, and he will be relied upon heavily.
The Transfer - Noah Gurley
While Davison and Bediako are the young bucks who will likely need some time to grow and develop, Furman transfer, Noah Gurley, should be ready to hit the ground running immediately. The 6’8 stretch-four averaged 15.4 PPG on 48.8%/33.9%/69.1% to go along with 5.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.1 BPG, and 1.0 SPG this past season. He also dropped 15 on the Tide last December, when the Paladins came into Tuscaloosa and nearly defeated Alabama in Coleman. His career highlights include a lot of damage done to both the Tide and Auburn:
Gurley was almost made in a lab for Oats’ brand of basketball. He’s got great size, can handle and shoot, hustles at all times, has a high basketball I.Q., finishes and bangs around the rim, and plays great defense. He’s also 23 years old, and in a sport that is defined by 19 and 20 year olds, he’s got the physical development others simply can’t match-up with. Simply put - this guy is a basketball player. He will likely be playing as many minutes as anybody on the team, in part because he can play in so many different looks from the wing to the post.
The Shooter - Jusaun Holt
Rounding out Alabama’s top-ten class of 2021, Jusaun Holt is a 6’6 two-guard from Atlanta who profiles to be a longer-term contributor to the Tide than either Davison or Bediako, but that doesn’t mean the kid doesn’t have game. Holt is a true shooter, and with Petty and Josh Primo off to the pros and Nimari Burnett sidelined for the year with an ACL injury, Holt will almost certainly play a significant role in the rotation this season. Don’t be surprised if it takes him some time to get going, as he needs work on the other facets of his game, but he is definitely a bucket-getter.
The Wildcard - Alex Tchikou
Finally, we arrive at the player with one of the highest ceilings on the team - Alex “Frentchi” Tchikou. The seven-foot Frenchman was actually part of the 2020 class for the Tide, but he tore his Achilles last offseason and subsequently had to sit out the entire year. There are so many questions and variables at play with Tchikou’s profile, that it’s hard to get a great read on how he will contribute to the team this season.
Frentchi was already a bit of a wildcard coming out of high school. He’s unbelievably long, yet showed the ability to handle the rock, run the floor, and shoot from distance. However, he never did those things consistently enough to be a slam-dunk prospect, which is why he ended up in Alabama, and not at Kentucky or a French pro team. He was considered a raw prospect with a ton of potential.
Obviously, tearing his Achilles did not help much in his development, so it’ll be interesting to see exactly where he is at when the season starts. Oats says that he will be ready for the opener, so he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. Tchikou could be a guy who just spares Bediako in the post for a few minutes a game, he could be an elite game-changer, or he could fall anywhere in-between. He’s a true wildcard. But he’s got an incredible highlight tape:
Change is definitely in the wind right now, as the calendar flips to November, and that is no different for Tide Hoops this year. With Herbert Jones, John Petty, Alex Reese, Josh Primo, and Jordan Bruner all gone, and James Rojas out until at least January with an ACL injury, Alabama will be relying heavily on some new faces to defend its SEC titles.
The good news is that Nate Oats and his staff - specifically Bryan Hodgson and Antoine Pettway - has done an amazing job recruiting the next wave of guys to replace the ones that have left. With the five guys above joining the likes of Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis, and Juwan Gary, the Tide is more than equipped to sustain its success from last season.
Stick around all week for more Alabama basketball season preview content. It’s Tide Hoops week here at Roll ’Bama Roll!