Vanderbilt at Alabama
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 16-13 (8-8 SEC), Vanderbilt 9-20, (1-15 SEC)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 95.3 FM
The graduate transfer rule in college basketball, allowing players to finish their degree at one school then wrap up their playing career at another, has always involved a bit of uncertainty.
Things can be even more unsure when a new head coach is also involved in the situation. Sometimes there is the advantage that the new coach has no preconceived notions about his roster but there can also be a situation where a one-year senior doesn’t fit into long-range plans.
For Alabama guard James “Beetle” Bolden, though, the adjustment from West Virginia to Alabama has been a smooth one, and the transition to Nate Oats’ system has been a custom fit.
Bolden, who has been a valuable sixth man off the bench and a solid source of energy, will play his final regular-season home game for the Crimson Tide Tuesday night as Alabama hosts Vanderbilt at Coleman Coliseum. He is the only player who will be honored at the Crimson Tide’s Senior Night, which begin about 20 minutes prior to the 7:30 p.m. tip-off.
“He’s hard-playing, he’s tough,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said on Monday. “I always go back to the Mississippi State game where he’s the smallest guy on the floor and went in there and ripped a rebound away from their bigs.
“He’s played hurt, he’s had to take IV’s, he’s lost weight during the season. But he is still out there. He defends. He has taken charges. When we talk about having a blue-collar mentality, he embodies that.”
Oats recruited Bolden, who had spent four years, including a redshirt year, at West Virginia as a shooter but he has proven his value in other ways.
“He’s been in some tough situations,” Oats said. “He was coached for four years by (Bob) Huggins so you know he brings some toughness.”
Bolden smiled during his Monday interview when asked if he was 100 percent healthy.
“No, but that’s just the basketball grind,” he said. “You just keep pushing.
The “grind,” as he calls it, has contributed to a 3-point shooting slump (10 of his last 40), but hasn’t shaken his confidence
“It’s heart over height,” he added when asked about playing against much larger opponents. “You’ve got to dig down and have that heart. You keep pushing and it makes you bigger than you actually are.”
John Petty, who did not play against South Carolina on Saturday due to an elbow sprain, is “doubtful” to return to action against Vanderbilt, Oats said.
“(Petty) shot the ball some today in practice but he was still weak. He’s made significant progress. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. But barring some miraculous recovery, he is probably out.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt