Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Anthony Grant Grabs Another Recruit

I had some reservations about Alabama's hire of Anthony Grant. It's not that I think he's a bad coach, or that I have ever seen him really get out-coached. It's simply that I felt like Eric Maynor might have made him overrated. In his brief time as a head coach, he has not had to play without Maynor, and it's possible that he wouldn't have had the same success without the situation he was dropped in. It's the same reason why I had doubts about Keno Davis at Providence - and still do. You want to see a coach build up his own team and prove that he can build a consistently solid program.

That all said, Grant was the best coach that Alabama was going to get, and he does strike me as a no-nonsense head coach who can recruit, which are two good characteristics for a head coach to have. He managed to hang onto Alabama's solid recruiting class, and this week he added another piece: Ben Eblen. Eblen had been the best recruit that Grant had pulled into VCU's '09 class, and Eblen now follows Grant down to Alabama.

Alabama loses two key players in Alonzo Gee and Brandon Hollinger, but they will be a deep team next season. They do return a solid back court of Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrence, as well JaMychal Green and Justin Knox inside. Hillman, Torrence and Green are all three solid SEC starters. Knox only played about 20 minutes per game last season, but he is developing into a solid power forward, and should start next season. Yamene Coleman and Anthony Brock are among four key bench players who return. And with the signing of Eblen the recruiting class balloons to five quality recruits. Obviously one or two of them will redshirt, but Tony Mitchell and Shawn Kemp, Jr are the two highest rated recruits and the two most likely to play key minutes next season.

Gee and Hollinger won't be easy to replace, but I still think Alabama will be improved next season. Of course, they've got a ways to go as both Sagarin and Pomeroy rated them the 95th best team in the nation. I have them currently rated 4th in the SEC West, and one of the teams I considered for the BP65 but left out. Grant is off to a solid start, but I don't think I'm going to move their projection too much at this point. They struggled offensively last season, and they lost their leading scorer, but to me the biggest issue will be rebounding. Alabama's biggest problem last season was atrocious defensive rebounding (Pomeroy rated them the 282nd best defensive rebounding team in the nation). Considering that their two highest rated recruits are both forwards (Kemp and Mitchell), a huge key will likely be how developed they are by the fall. Big men sometimes need a year or two to get to the point that they can play large minutes (such as the case of Justin Knox). I think that the Tide are going to have to get a lot of production out of either or both of their two key recruits if they're going to make the Tournament in Anthony Grant's first season.

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