By Carey Reeder
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
The University of Alabama women’s basketball opened practice for the 2018-19 season Wednesday at Foster Auditorium.
Coming off its second consecutive 20-win season and a quarterfinal appearance in the Women’s NIT, the Crimson Tide return only seven players from last year’s team. Eight newcomers are entering the program, including six freshmen. A revamped roster gives head coach Kristy Curry a mix of both experienced players and fresh faces.
“As inexperienced as we are, I like our youth too because sometimes they don’t know any better,” Curry said. “That blend of old and new will be exciting for our team and our fans.”
After the departure of seniors Hannah Cook and Ashley Williams, Jordan Lewis and senior guard Shaquera Wade are the top returning scorers. Wade is the only returning senior who has started a game.
“Both Jordan and Shaquera are prepared for their roles this season,” Curry said. “Those two bring great energy and effort every day and it’s contagious within the team. It’s exciting.”
Junior college star Cierra Johnson is among the newcomers joining the Crimson Tide. Recruited by Curry out of high school in Mobile, Johnson made the most of her time at Shelton State Community College, earning national junior college player of the year honors. She helped lead the Lady Bucs to a 36-1 record and a third-place national finish.
“She’s even more mature now as a junior and her growth has been tremendous,” Curry said. “Today was special for both of us because she’s worked so hard to get to that first day of practice with us.”
The SEC sent three teams to the Sweet 16 in last season’s NCAA Tournament. In a top-heavy conference, the Crimson Tide expects to compete for a spot in the tournament this season.
“Even though there are some great teams in our conference we feel like it is still wide open,” Wade said. “I will do everything I can to get us there.”
Alabama’s first exhibition game is Oct. 21 against Faulkner University at 3 p.m. The first regular-season game is Nov. 7 against Southeastern Louisiana.