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Jumbo Package: Saban visits hoops team, Bryce Young shows out at Pro Day

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK

Happy Friday, everyone. The baseball team opens its home SEC schedule with 22nd-ranked Kentucky this weekend, first pitch tonight at 6pm on SECN+. Softball continues a difficult season with a trip to 3rd-ranked Tennessee, the first pitch tonight on SECN+ as well but one hour earlier at 5pm. Gym gets the weekend off before nationals,but had four named All-SEC while Luisa Blanco and Lilly Hudson earned All-America honors.

With apologies to our beloved Crimson Tide athletes who will be competing on the diamond tonight, all eyes will be trained on the basketball team as they take on San Diego St. in the Sweet Sixteen.

Nick Saban was able to sufficiently overcome all the animosity we were told exists between he and Nate Oats to visit the hoops team before their departure.

Some of the players were in awe.

“You grow up watching a guy like that, a legend in this sport. The goat [greatest of all time] in my opinion,” Adam Cottrell said. “So for him to come and speak to our practice was really, really cool. I think a lot of us were mesmerized. Even Brandon. When Brandon is mesmerized, I think that goes to show just who’s talking to us.”

Charles Bediako said this was his first time ever seeing Saban in person.

As for Saban’s message to the team before they take to the court at KFC Yum! Center? Simple: Keep up the great work.

“[Saban] basically said like, you know, wanted Alabama to be like a championship school all around. Like football, basketball, gymnastics, you name it. Just be a great school all over,” Noah Clowney said.

Nate and Nick both spoke on the “wrong place, wrong time” nonsense that media drummed up as a controversy.

“There’s nothing to clarify,” Saban said. “I don’t watch basketball coaches’ press conferences. I haven’t watched basketball coaches’ press conferences in … how many years have I been coaching? You know? Never watched one. Never listened to what other people say.

“That was strictly about our program and what we do. It had nothing to do with anybody else. I don’t make any comments about anybody else. We hope the basketball team does really, really well.”

Saban offered no public clarification or walkback of his remark for two days afterward, but Oats said he talked to Saban “that night” and, “I didn’t take it that way at all.”

“I got a ton of respect for Coach,” Oats said. “He has been tremendously supportive of our program since he has got here. He says it all the time. He wants the entire athletic department to do well. He has been at multiple games this year. He came yesterday to speak to the team.

“He was good. Players loved it.”

The funniest part of that whole ordeal was the infallible logical position that there’s no way Saban used the exact same phrase by accident, when that is one of the more commonly used cliches to describe bad luck. In Tony Mitchell’s case where he supposedly let someone in his car with felony weight and paraphernalia, there is no claim of bad luck, unlike Brandon Miller who showed up to pick up his friends with a passenger already in tow and ended up witnessing a gunfight.

Alabama’s path from a seeding perspective looks easier than most.

But with Arizona, Baylor and Virginia − seeds 2 through 4 − all ousted from the South Region already, coach Nate Oats couldn’t have asked for a better setup. Awaiting the Alabama-SDSU winner are sixth-seeded Creighton and No. 15-seed Princeton, which has sent plenty of brackets to the trash can already.

Meanwhile, the Midwest Region has gone mostly according to plan, with teams seeded Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 all advancing, and in the West, three seeds among the top four also remain alive. Alabama is playing through the region that has seen the most upheaval.

And with that comes higher expectations.

However, Alabama’s freshmen will be going against a team of grown men.

“We don’t have near the experience they have, which with most groups, I think, that would worry you,” Oats said Thursday. “I think this group has shown how much maturity we have. And the fact that we’re young doesn’t mean that we’re immature. Just means guys haven’t played as many games, and they’re a little bit younger.”

Oats mentioned to his team early Thursday the NBA drafts plenty of young players who start early in their careers and end up being good.

“I think you guys have been mature, and this lack of experience people are talking about, I’m not worried about it because you guys have shown how mature and prepared you can get,” Oats said he told his team. “Age doesn’t necessarily matter. It’s more what your mindset is, how focused you are, how mature you are when you walk in.”

High expectations and a good veteran squad being told that they are the underdogs all week is a difficult combination. Hopefully Alabama has its A-game tonight.

Alabama held its pro day yesterday, and all eyes were on Bryce Young. He reportedly showed out.

The Panthers have done their best to downplay the significance of Young’s height. Reich, who hasn’t had a starting quarterback shorter than 6-3 in 17 years as a coach, reminded earlier this week that he had a “very high’’ grade on Russell Wilson (5-11) when the nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion was drafted in 2012.

General manager Scott Fitterer, who was on the Seattle staff that drafted Wilson in the third round, agreed.

“You just learn how to play with it,’’ he said on Thursday of Young’s height. “You don’t see balls getting knocked down. He has no problem seeing over the middle of the field, processing. He’s off the charts as a processor.

“I don’t see height as a factor.’’

The ability in which the Heisman Trophy winner processes is what caught former Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith’s attention.

“Timing, accuracy, processing, mobility,” Smith told the NFL Network when asked what the Panthers, who hold the top pick in the NFL draft are looking for. “They want to know what they’ve seen on film and when they see him in person, it confirms what they have already seen. ...

“Yes, his measurables are not ideal, but I’d rather take a quarterback who processes quickly, who spins the ball. One scout told me he loves the way he spins the ball. His timing.”

Smith said general managers, personnel and position coaches all told him the same thing.

“He’s the quickest, and he processes at another level.”

Young threw for scouts representing all 32 NFL clubs Thursday at Alabama’s Pro Day, but he chose not to run the 40-yard dash, a drill he also skipped at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. But he’s willing to turn on the speed for NFL teams if they request that in a private workout in the lead-up to next month’s NFL draft.

“That’s up to the teams. We’ll see what they ask of me,” Young said. “Whatever the teams ask, that’s what I want to do.”

Straight line speed is not a strength for Bryce, so it’s understandable why he wouldn’t showcase it and instead keep the conversation around the mental side of the position and his arm talent, which are both elite traits for him.

We got another Sabanism from Nick on Will Anderson.

May you be a dog-ass competitor in whatever you do.

Saban thinks a couple of guys who left for the draft should have returned.

He was also asked if NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) money now available to college athletes has cut down on the early entrants — men who have been out of high school three years able to enter the draft.

Saban said, “I would argue in the other direction, that we had a couple of guys that went out that maybe should have considered staying. But my philosophy hasn’t changed. If you’re a first-round draft pick you should go out. If you’re a second-round draft pick and can improve your draft status, you should go out.

“Otherwise, you should stay in school. I don’t know if everybody that’s going out for the draft is going to be in that situation. I’m hopeful that they are, but I don’t know that some of the pre-draft info we got supports that.”

Any speculation as to whom he’d be talking about? Cam Latu comes to mind. Maybe Tyler Steen?

Last, Alabama’s facilities ranked third according to recruits behind Oregon and Georgia.

“Alabama’s Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility received a makeover prior to the 2020 season featuring a ritzy locker room area a new player entrance tunnel, lockers, a wall of program greats, digital walls and more. Per BamaOnline, Alabama also opened its new Sports Science Center, which features advanced treatment services and technology with spaces dedicated to cryotherapy, chiropractic, stretch, massage, relaxation, recovery and mental health services. One day after Oregon released photos and details of its multi-million dollar overhaul in 2013, Alabama did the same and the Crimson Tide’s contractors did not disappoint with continuous enhancements since. Alabama’s hydrotherapy room features four waterfalls and its entryway is pure national champion swag. Alabama’s $9.1 million, 37,000-square-foot weight room is top-notch.”

Well, that does it. No way a basketball arena can be built under these circumstances. Am I right?

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.