Sophomore is one of the nation’s top point guards

Dozens of National Basketball Association scouts are expected for Monday night’s Alabama basketball game against Murray State. While those professional savants will no doubt take notes on the Crimson Tide’s NBA hopefuls, the main attraction will be in a Racer jersey.

Murray State sophomore point guard Ja Morant is one of the nation’s top point guards, averaging 24.7 points and 10.3 assists per game, numbers that would be higher if he had not played only 18 minutes in a 108-36 win against overmatched Spalding University.

Avery Johnson, whose 4-1 Crimson Tide enters the game on a two-game winning streak after defeating Ball State and Wichita State, has a succinct scouting report about Morant.

“He’s a problem,” Johnson said on Sunday.

“He’s a very high-level ball handler, passer and shooter. He can push the ball. He has great court vision. He constantly puts pressure on your defense, whether it’s your man-to-man defense, your pressure defense, your transition defense. We’re going to have to account for him on every possession.

“The main thing is, you have to keep him involved defensively. When you face guys with extreme talent, you can’t just let him stand around in a zone. On the other end, when we have faced players like this, we give them a steady diet of different defenders, guys who can defend in different ways. If we can do that, that’s the only chance we have (to slow Morant) because he is such a high-level defender.

“They have an experienced team around him, too. It’s comparable to the Rhode Island team that came in here last year (a hard-fought 68-64 Alabama win.)”

The matchup between the 6-foot-3 Morant and 6-7 Alabama defensive stopper Herb Jones will be intriguing as will the play of Alabama freshman point guard Kira Lewis Jr., who is coming off a 24-point performance in Alabama’s Charleston Classic win over Wichita State.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or 205-722-0225.


Alabama vs. Murray State

When: 7 p.m. CT

Where: Coleman Coliseum

Records: Alabama 4-1, Murray State 3-0

TV: SEC Network Plus

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (95.3 FM locally)