Alabama Basketball Opponent Preview: Jacksonville State Gamecocks

[Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]
[Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.] /

Alabama basketball looks to remain undefeated when it hosts the Jacksonville Gamecocks of the Atlantic Sun Conference on Friday evening. Alabama already defeated one of the A-Sun’s better teams when it toppled Liberty 95-59.

Jacksonville State enters the matchup with a 1-1 record, beating Division II Shorter University 111-48 and losing at Illinois-Chicago 67-60.

Last season, the Gamecocks were a pretty good team. They finished 21-11, winning the A-Sun regular season championship. JSU was upset in the conference tournament semifinals, but was still awarded an NCAA tournament bid on a technicality, as tournament winner Bellarmine was ineligible to participate. The Gamecocks entered the tournament as a 15-seed, and lost to Auburn by a score of 80-61 in the first round. Earlier in the season, Jacksonville State played Alabama very close, losing 65-59 in Coleman Coliseum.

Morehead State transfer Skyelar Potter has been Jacksonville State’s leading scorer thus far. The senior guard, who has previously also played for Wright State, has over 1,000 career points and is currently averaging 16.0 points per game. He has gone 7-11 from the three-point line this year, making him a dangerous shooter.

Former Georgia transfer Amanze Ngumezi is Jacksonville State’s only true big man at 6’9″. Ngumezi missed last season with an injury, but has returned to be a valuable piece for the Gamecocks. The senior has scored in double-figures in both games so far, and is averaging 13.0 points per game.

6’11” Slovakian native Maros Zeliznak will back up Ngumezi, and may have to play extended minutes against Alabama. Zeliznak typically doesn’t play much, but JSU may need him against the Crimson Tide’s big front line.

Senior guard Demaree King is the facilitator. King averages 12.5 points and a team-high 4.0 assists per game. He was  easily the leading returning scorer from last year’s team, on which he averaged 10.5 points per game. In many ways, he is the lone contributing holdover from last season. Jacksonville State experienced a lot of roster turnover this offseason, and did not return another player that averaged more than 3.2 points per game.

Wichita State transfer Clarence Jackson gives JSU an athletic combo forward. He is averaging 8.5 points and leads the team with 6.5 rebounds per game. Jackson is only 6’7”, and yet is the only Gamecock averaging more than five rebounds per game. Alabama basketball has been absolutely dominant on the glass, and should continue that trend in this game.

Georgia transfer Camron McDowell is another good athlete on the wing. McDowell is a stat-stuffer who is averaging 8.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and a team-leading 3.0 steals per game.

The reconstructed Crimson Tide roster is still gelling, and chemistry may take even longer to develop than usual as Coach Nate Oats eases Jahvon Quinerly back into the lineup.

Alabama basketball should handle Jacksonville State, and the game should not be as competitive as it was last year. The Gamecocks shoot the ball well, particularly Potter, King, and Jackson, but are at an enormous size disadvantage.

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Alabama’s shooting success has varied drastically, but if the Tide can shoot even at a respectable clip they should win this one easily.