Will the Alabama Basketball Roster Be Improved in 2016-2017?

How will Coach Johnson fare in his first trip to The Plains? Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
How will Coach Johnson fare in his first trip to The Plains? Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

The Alabama basketball squad gave its fans some unexpected excitement this past season, but how are things looking for the 2016-2017 season?

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First off, let’s put both rosters for the Alabama basketball team on the table. One is complete, as it was in the past, and the other is still a work-in-progress as we still expect to add at least one more name to the roster.

Let’s take a look at how the rosters compare:

2015-2016 Depth Chart (9 total players)

  • PG – Retin Obasohan – Justin Coleman
  • SG – Arthur Edwards – Brandon Austin
  • SF – Riley Norris – Shannon Hale
  • PF – Michael Kessens
  • C – Jimmie Taylor – Donta Hall

2016-2017 Projected Depth Chart

  • PG – Dazon Ingram – Corban CollinsAvery Johnson Jr
  • SGArmond Davis – Brandon Austin
  • SFNick King – Riley Norris/Shannon Hale
  • PF – Shannon Hale/Braxton Key
  • C – Jimmie Taylor – Donta Hall

*There will be one more PF/C addition to be announced this offseason, bringing the total number of scholarship players on the roster to 12

The first thing that should jump off the page at you is the difference in the depth between the two rosters. As Coach Johnson said, at times last year he had to get out there and play a role in practice due to the fact that we didn’t have enough bodies – luckily for him it looks like that won’t be needed this year.

After Dazon Ingram went down last year, Alabama was left with only 9 eligible scholarship players. Assuming Avery Johnson Jr is on scholarship, the recent addition of Corban Collins already improves that number by 2 to 11 with the hope of adding at least one more.  The extra bodies should aid in preventing any late season exhaustion caused collapses like we witnessed last year down the stretch.

Now we’ll look at each position and determine if it has improved, digressed or remained the same as we move forward to the 2016-2017 season.

Point Guard – Not to knock Retin Obasohan’s talent or contributions last year (because there is a massive list of them) but due to Dazon Ingram’s injury, he had to play out of position. Some observers would even say he played two positions simultaneously last year. Due to Retin playing out of position, Alabama rarely had a true point guard on the court last year and when they did, it was in the form of an undersized Justin Coleman who has since moved on to Samford.

In the 2016-2017 campaign, barring any unforeseen injuries like last year, Alabama will go from zero true SEC caliber point guards to three (Dazon Ingram, Corban Collins and Avery Johnson Jr). Replacing Retin and Coleman with Ingram, Collins and Johnson Jr is seen as an improvement in my eyes.

Shooting Guard – Along with Retin, Arthur Edwards was the unsung hero of this team many times last year. He was also nowhere to be found for stretches of the season. He could catch on fire from outside but if that wasn’t there, he might as well have not been there. If Dazon Ingram doesn’t go down and Retin remains at his natural position here, Arthur Edwards would have been a great sixth man to help provide productive minutes when Retin needed a breather. That was not the case and Edwards was forced into a full-time starting roll where he was relied upon to provide a lot of quality minutes and keep the defense from doubling Retin up top.

Armond Davis should provide the shooting touch of Edwards, but also the ability to drive and create his own shot if the long ball is not there. Edwards’ senior leadership is an intangible that doesn’t show up in the score sheet but increases his value to the team. If not for Corban Collins’ ability to play the 2 as well as PG, shooting guard would be an even bigger problem but the depth he will provide here in addition to PG gives the 2016-2017 version of shooting guard the edge as well. Slight edge to 2016-2017

Small Forward – Riley Norris and Shannon Hale made up a constant, solid but not flashy Small Forward duo in the 2015-2016 campaign. Either of these guys can blow up for 25+ but they also have the ability to leave you with a goose egg on any given night. You could argue Hale is the more talented of the two but what Norris lacks in natural talent he makes up in effort. The kid busts his butt and you can depend on him to give 110-percent every night. Norris’ strongest trait, effort given, is the area many see as the weakness for Hale. That being said, this was probably the best position duo in 2015-2016.

Alabama will need Shannon Hale to step up this year to make the tournament. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama will need Shannon Hale to step up this year to make the tournament. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /

The flash factor comes next season. Nick King sat out last year, but many close to the program hinted he was one of the best, if not the best player on the court at practice. With King coming in and probably forcing Norris or Hale to power forward, this already solid position as well will be improved in 2016-2017.

Power Forward – For some, Kessens was an eye sore on the court—a liability with the ball in his hands and a stiff defender. There were glimmers of athleticism from time to time, but he will probably be among peers in his final landing spot at Florida International. The knocks (sloppy, turnover prone, stiff etc) seem to outweigh the positives (physical) with Kessens. It shouldn’t be hard to improve upon this position next season.

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In comes Braxton Key, a big time power forward that was relied upon by high school power Oak Hill in their championship run this season. Key’s commitment was somewhat overshadowed by the commitment of Terrance Ferguson early on, but he began to turn the heads of Tide fans in his numerous nationally televised appearances throughout his senior campaign. Not only was he a key piece of Oak Hill’s squad, by season’s end he was the MVP . He won the MVP of the Dick’s Sporting Goods national high school tournament, and rightfully so, as his team went to him when they needed a bucket or needed to kill the opposing team’s run. You aren’t going to get the super fancy 360 dunks from Key like you would’ve from Ferguson but this guy is going to win some games for Alabama and that’s what you really want. With Shannon Hale, Riley Norris or an addition that remains to be determined backing him up, this position will definitely be improved in Avery Johnson’s second season in Tuscaloosa.

Center – At the beginning of the season the main post position, whether you label it center or some kind of forward hybrid, was sharpied in as Jimmie Taylor’s. Coach Johnson was singing his praises in the offseason and spoke highly of how dependent we would be upon Mr. Taylor. That carried over into the early season where we saw him get a majority of the minutes. As a reoccurring foul problem continued to plague the promising junior, we began to see more minutes from one Donta Hall. Donta wasn’t expected to be relied upon by many as he came from a small school and was relatively low profile in high school. As he began to get more minutes, the light began to come on for Donta. By season’s end, Donta had become a block-machine on defense and many were calling for him to start over the quiet junior, who many believed had peaked with his monstrous performance in Gainesville.

Will the Jimmie Taylor we saw in Gainesville return this year? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Will the Jimmie Taylor we saw in Gainesville return this year? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

As of the moment, this position remains the same as last year. Only time will tell if Hall continues to improve through the offseason at the same rate he improved during the season and if the light will come on for Jimmie Taylor. If the Tide brings in another big, having five fouls alone will be enough to call this an improvement with the way our guys seem to hop on and off the court like a fat kid on a scale at Tony Perkis’ Fat Camp. With that said, there is plenty of playing time to offer to an incoming power forward or center. If Alabama can land Giddens (the transfer from Ohio State that visited recently which will have to sit out next year at the school he chooses) things will not improve immediately depth-wise, but our bigs will definitely have an excellent scout team body to prepare against in the fall and winter. The duo of Giddens and Hall is nice to think about for the 2017-2018 campaign as well.

By my count, that’s four predicted improvements to a roster that flirted with the bubble pretty seriously last March until the Bulldogs from Starkville came to town and put that talk to rest.  Coach Johnson likes a fast paced style of basketball that the limited roster last year was simply incapable of running. With a more talented and deeper roster, look for the style of play Avery Johnson described at his initial press conference to be more prevalent this year.

I don’t think this will be a team the national preseason magazines predict to be in the big dance but this will be a team that no one will want to play by season’s end.

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Check back for an updated look at next year’s roster once the final piece is in place.