Tide hoops team must start over
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
July 22, 2003
Alabama head basketball coach Mark Gottfried must feel like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid being pursued by the bounty hunters in the classic western.
Every time the Crimson Tide's fifth-year coach looks over his roster for the 2003-04 season he must think, "Who are these guys?"
"We've got a lot of questions," Gottfried said during the Southeastern Conference men's basketball summer teleconference last Friday. "We don't have any strengths, we have none."
Alabama will begin the upcoming season with more holes than Swiss cheese to fill in its line up the two biggest coming in the form of finding replacements for departed center Erwin Dudley and point guard Maurice "Mo" Williams.
Dudley, the 2002 SEC Player of the Year, graduated at the end of last season, and he departed as the team's second leading scorer and top rebounder averaging 14.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in the 2002-03 season.
Williams was the team's leading scorer, averaging 16.4 points per game, while dishing out a team-leading 112 assists during the season. The Jackson native was taken in the second round of the June NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz.
"I don't think anyone's lost what we've lost," Gottfried said.
The roster upheaval does have a silver lining for the Tide's head coach.
Gottfried will not have to look hard to find things to work on with his unexperienced team.
"We may be a team of no-name guys, who don't have a lot of experience, but if anything, it is going to be a fun team to coach," Gottfried said. "They are very coachable and eager. We are going to be smaller, skinnier, and in this conference, that is a tall order."
Alabama will get to work on reshaping its hoops image in August, when the team travels to Nassau for five games with the Bahamas National Team and Junior National Team.
The Tide will leave Aug. 8 and return nine days later. The trip will allow Gottfried 10 days of practice with his new team before the overseas tour.
"It's good," Gottfried said. "This is a year where we feel like it can be really beneficial for us. We're going to be tremendously inexperienced all over the floor. Hopefully, it'll help us a little bit more come November and December."
One part of the floor Gottfried will be keeping an extra-close eye on will be the point-guard position.
Antoine Pettway, who averaged 6.3 points and 2.4 assists per game coming off the bench, is the front runner to replace the explosive Williams at the point.
The incoming senior will have to prove he can handle an extra work load early for the Tide to improve on its 17-12 overall mark from last season (7-9 SEC).
"(Pettway) has never really played point," Gottfried said. "Mo Williams had the ball in his hands the whole time last year. At that position (point guard), we're obviously very thin."
The other big question the Tide will need to answer during the August trip is who will score for the team.
Dudley and Williams accounted for almost half of Alabama's 69 point-per-game average last season.
Gottfried will look to returning forwards Chuck Davis, Kennedy Winston and Evan Brook to take over the team's low-post presence and provided much needed points.
"We have to discover how we can score, who will score and where we will score from," Gottfried said. "We had the luxury of two inside players (Dudley and Kenny Walker) basically start for four years, which is rare in college basketball. Now for us, it's a new cycle."