Alabama Fans Got a Look at the Future of Crimson Tide Basketball
If Wednesday night's open practice inside Coleman Coliseum was any indication of what to expect this season, we learned two things: the fans are ready to get behind this team and these players can put on a show.
You would have thought Alabama football had opened fall camp with the number of people moving around the athletic complex on an early August evening, but the first football practice was still 24 hours away. Nearly 2,500 people came out to watch Avery Johnson's newest squad workout for about an hour on Wednesday evening, which is already a difficult time to draw a crowd in Alabama even without everyone in the state thinking and talking about football. It might have been brief, but the basketball team managed to grab the attention in Tuscaloosa on this night.
"Our crowds are thirsty for a successful basketball team and a team that can take that next step," Johnson said after the practice. "So, first of all, I thought the crowd was great, and I'm hoping they saw a brand of basketball that'll bring them back to Coleman and they'll bring some of their friends out to see us."
And the fans that came out were rewarded with the first look at a team that could be the most talented at Alabama in a long time. The school's first top-5 recruiting class looked the part as Collin Sexton and John Petty showcased the scoring abilities that helped make them five-star recruits.
All you have to do is watch the video at the top of the page to see a five-minute clip from the scrimmage in which you'll see the two true freshmen go back and forth on each end of the court. There was a sequence that went like this:
Sexton runner in the lane
Avery Johnson Jr. 3-pointer
Petty fouled on a made 3-pointer
If you're keeping score, that's 11 points from the two freshmen in just under two minutes. That's the explosive scoring that Coach Johnson wants and needs. The program, which has been tremendous defensively for years, has lacked scoring options. But that looks like it will change in 2017-18.
"I love the quick-pace," Johnson said. "You saw a little bit of a difference in our speed. I'm really pleased at the way we're trying to get the ball down the floor."
Alabama will get its first chance to face a live opponent next week during its three-game Canada trip, which begins with a game against McGill University on Monday night. The coaches have an idea of the different rotations they'll use for each game, but Johnson said he'd stick with a group if it's working well.
It's hard to say what the starting lineup will be for the first game, but it's probably safe to assume that Sexton, Ingram, and Key have a spot assuming Ingram is healthy. The other two spots are open and there's plenty of competition to fill them, which is a welcomed change for the program. Depth has been an issue for much of the past five years, but the Tide could run 10-deep this year and still get solid production off the bench.
Prior to the start of the viewing period, Johnson urged fans to remember that Wednesday night was not the finished product but rather just another summer practice. But for anyone in attendance, this wasn't just another summer practice for Alabama basketball. It was a glimpse into an encouraging future.