Injuries can create difficulty for an athletic team. They can also create opportunity.

With Alabama forwards Braxton Key (knee) and Riley Norris (hip) out for the early portion of the Crimson Tide schedule, two freshmen — Alex Reese and Galin Smith — and transfer Daniel Giddens have seen their chances of getting playing time increase and have capitalized on the situation.

“We have a versatile team,” said Reese, a four-star recruit out of Pelham High School. “That’s something I take pride in, being versatile. That gives you a chance to play different roles.”

Alabama vs. Alabama A&M
When: 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 2-0, Alabama A&M 0-2
Radio: 95.3 FM

For Reese, that has meant everything from rebounding — he currently leads the team with nine per game — to stretching the floor with the 3-point shot.

“Alex gives us a different look,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “He’s just as good a rebounder as anyone on our team. You haven’t seen much of Alex in the post but he can score there. He is a very good passer whether it’s the outlet pass or passing out of the double-team. What you’ve seen is some of our strategy in recruiting. Each person we recruited brings different strengths to our team.”

Johnson has even compared Reese’s skill as an outlet passer to that of Cleveland Cavalier Kevin Love, a comparison that drew a smile from Reese.

“He’s one of my favorite players in the NBA, so if I’m doing anything like Kevin Love, that’s great.”

The Bulldogs are 0-2 with losses to Ohio and Samford.

“If you look strictly at team speed, those guys really get the ball up and down,” Johnson said.

Former Shelton State guard Marcus Merriwether is a reserve guard for the Bulldogs.

Johnson stressed that UA was looking for continued improvement despite two wins on the ledger so far.

“Players are looking at the final score,” he said. “So they wonder why I’m so animated in our meetings. We’ve been getting outrebounded. We need to run better on offense — we’re a faster team than we’ve showed. Our screening has been terrible. If we were a football team our quarterback would get sacked every time because we don’t block anybody. So we want to win, obviously, but we need to look past the final score.”

Reach Cecil Hurt at or 205-722-0225