With postseason softball in full swing, and with ‘Bama baseball having its best season in 15 years, a relatively minor byline popped up earlier this week that may have been missed. But it is one that seriously implicates Alabama’s future success on the hardcourt, and I suspect it is one that will set Alabama up for a disappointing 2023-2024.
Seven-foot Canadian center Charles Bediako had thrown his name into the NBA draft bucket a month ago. That was expected: he had a good year, was finally healthy, and Alabama’s stock would never be higher. However, most anticipated that he would get a sub-G League / non-Draft grade, and come back to Tuscaloosa for a final year.
But that is not at all how this played out. In fact, Angry Chuck has seemingly made peace with his decision to leave college, and will not return to UA, come hell or highwater.
On paper, the loss of the fan favorite seems to be one that will sting, but not be a huge wound to the Tide’s roster. His statline is modest, in fact: 6.4 PPG (66.59%), 6 RPB, .6 APG, 1.8 BPG. Donta’ Hall had better numbers on far worse teams, ditto JaMychal Green; and Alabama rebounded fine from losing both.
But Angry Chuck’s impact on the roster goes well beyond that. He logged the most minutes of any back court player, and played the most percentage of available minutes of any big (yes, even more than Noah Clowney). In terms of points-over-replacement contribution, he again was the most valuable big that Alabama had — and yes, again, even over Clowney.
His offensive rating — that is, the amount of points he generated vs. his usage, was the highest of any Tide player. Just 14.5% of offensive plays ran through Bediako (vs. the most-used, Brandon Miller, who had shooting touches on 25% of possessions). Despite that, he generated roughly 121 points per 100 touches; Brandon Miller was second at 117 per 100. He was by far the most effective player inside the circle, shooting 72%. He was also an apt ballhandler, responsible for just 1-in-7 ‘Bama gaffes — compare that to someone like Jaden Bradley, who coughed up 25% of all of UA’s turnovers, in far more limited action. His overall offensive efficiency (TO, ORB, Points, etc.) were the highest for any Tide starter: 124.7 per 100 possessions. Brandon Miller was again second.
What Bediako did on the glass and as a defender were even more valuable. He was the most efficient defensive starter, allowing just over 86 points per 100 possessions (though Clowney was very close). And Alabama’s rebounding effort, which led the nation in rebounding for much of the year, was keyed by Bediako. He was third on the team in % of defensive rebounds hauled in, and was twice as good hauling in put-backs as anyone else. He led the team by leaps and bounds: In fact, he accounted for almost 15% of all of Alabama’s offensive boards. As a rim protector, he was peerless. Bediako blocked 8% of every opponent possession on the year. The Tide were good at getting after it generally, notching a block on 14-15% of all possessions, but Angry Chuck had 50% of them. That led to a defensive contribution good for an additional 6.2 PPG per night, the highest since Herb Jones’s stellar 2020.
In purely analytical terms of his contributions to the team, Bediako rates as the 71st most valuable out of the 3000+ NCAA D1 basketball players. His contributions were valued as 19% of Alabama’s win shares on the year — with only future NBA star Brandon Miller having a better pace.
Losing Miller hurt, and Alabama fans knew it would hurt.
But losing Bediako — who in efficiency terms is almost as, or even more, valuable than Miller — will hurt damn near as much. His decision to learn Turkish or prepare for the Canadian Olympic team has greatly damaged Alabama’s outlook in 2024.
In a rebuilding year for the Tide, replacing Bediako’s overall contributions may be the one that is the hardest to replicate.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.