Jan. 22, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Andrew Steele (22) drives the ball around Kentucky Wildcats guard Julius Mays (34) during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Alabama won 59-55. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Steele knows adversity. He knows defeat, he knows triumph, he knows failure, and he knows regret. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound fifth-year senior guard from Birmingham’s John Carroll Catholic High School has seen it all in his time at Alabama. He has overcome injuries, reduced playing time, and even the threat of losing the game he loves forever, but he still trudges on.
Andrew Steele’s career-defining moment came halfway through the 2011-2012 season. Steele suffered a concussion against Kentucky in the final minutes of the Tide’s meeting with the Wildcats in the 2011 SEC Tournament. He would be sidelined for the remainder of the season due to lingering concussion symptoms.
In June 2011, Andrew Steele announced that his career at The Capstone was over due to the number of concussions he had suffered during his career (four) and his inability to shake the symptoms.
“It was a hard decision, but it was a choice between something (basketball) I had been doing whole life and something that could affect the rest of my life going forward. For me, it wasn’t worth taking the potential risk,” Steele said in a statement after he announced his departure from the team.
But, thankfully, the story doesn’t end here. In early January of 2012, Andrew Steele was medically cleared to play by the same doctors that originally told him that he should never play basketball again.
Since Steele’s return, he has been a shining light of influence and leadership for the Tide. His experience has played a much bigger role in the 2012-2013 season. As the only senior scholarship player, Andrew Steele is the only true veteran on a very young Alabama team.
The numbers this year for the Tide don’t lie. Steele was once again stricken by injury earlier this year and was forced to miss seven games with a sports hernia that required surgery. In his absence, the Tide went 2-5 including losses at home to Mercer and Tulane. With him on the other hand, Alabama is a staggering 10-1.
It’s obvious that Andrew Steele’s presence plays a major role in Alabama’s success. But how? He only averages 4.3 points a game, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Less than impressive numbers to anyone that follows college basketball, but Andrew Steele presence goes way beyond numbers. He holds to main intangibles, a coach’s knowledge of the game, and unrivaled effort.
Andrew Steele plays like a coach, mentors like a coach, and he even upholds himself in press conferences like a coach. He is Anthony Grant’s extension onto the court. Many times during the game you can spot Steele relaying the play calls in from the sidelines on both offense and defense. In fact, during his absence from June 2011 to January 2012, Steele served as an assistant on Alabama’s coaching staff. He knows the game and it shows.
Secondly, he has an unmatched motor. There’s no doubt that Andrew Steele isn’t the quickest or most skilled guy on the court. In fact, he rarely has the upper hand when it comes to speed and agility, but he never gives up. Steele plays like there is no tomorrow. He is a controlled offensive player that rarely forces shots or passes and always looks for an assist before a score. Steele is also one of Alabama’s best defenders. His skills on the defensive side of the ball, especially in Alabama’s full court press, are unrivaled.
Players like Andrew Steele are the reason why I watch college basketball. These are guys that have stuck around through the thick and thin, they’ve weathered the storm until their time in the spotlight. Andrew Steele has devoted five years to Alabama’s basketball program and I know he doesn’t regret a single day. His uncharacteristic leadership style and the intangibles that he brings to the game makes him one of the most valuable players in college basketball. Andrew Steele is one of those guys that younger players look at for reassurance and advice. He is Alabama’s secret to success.
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