With every player returning from a season ago, one would expect the Alabama women’s basketball team’s preseason preparation to be similar to 2016.

That’s not the case.

In fact, the unusual amount of experience the Crimson Tide returns is the exact reason why practices have a different atmosphere.

Now littered with depth, there’s a new culture at Foster Auditorium where playing time is far from a guarantee, and every day is a battle for a position in the starting lineup or supportive role.

“Practices have been extremely competitive,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “You’ve got people really vying for playing time. And, we’ve also added in four new faces that add to making practices extremely competitive with our two transfers, another transfer in DaiJia Ruffin, and a freshman Ariyah Copeland. They add to that equation a little bit by being a few new faces.”

Last season Curry changed her starting five often. It was a goal of the team to get four players to double-digit points every game. They came close. Four players finished the year averaging more than nine points per game, including Hannah Cook and Jordan Lewis, the two players with the most minutes on the team. Without the constant rotation of players by Curry that would have never been possible.

“Playing time is earned, and that can change daily and weekly depending on how practice is going, and who is healthy,” Curry said. “I expect us throughout the course of the year to change our lineups, but we’ll wait and see. It might depend on who we are playing, matchups, or how we want to start offensively or defensively. I think there will be a lot of different factors that key into that.”

It’s a problem that Curry enjoys having. Depth is a crucial part of the SEC, and some of the top teams in the conference are able to go three players deep at every position. This is the first time in a long time that Curry believes her team is built to do that as well.

“I’ve loved the improvement we’ve seen across the board,” Curry said. “I think that comes from the work this summer with our strength staff and individual time in the gym. I think there were a couple of areas we really need to improve, and that’s our shooting and free-throw shooting.”

Curry said the shooting percentages the team charts daily are much higher than previous years before the season started. One person in particular who she noticed has developed her shot is point guard CoCo Knight, who was an important role player of the bench for the Crimson Tide in 2016.

“Does that mean we are going to shoot better?” Curry said. “I’m not sure. But I do know that from what we’ve seen in practice that it has improved, and I do believe it’s a testament to their work in the offseason.”