There’s a steady stream of news these days, as much as you want, and not all of it is pleasant. Fortunately, this week has at least a glimmer of light coming on Wednesday.
Football season starts as it has for the past few years, not with a practice but with a celebration of sharing as The Nick’s Kids Foundation, the charitable project of Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry, donate thousands of dollars to area charities that impact young people. Nick Saban will meet the media, although he usually tries to keep the spotlight on the recipients, not the football season. That isn’t always easy. There’s always some off-season issue that draws attention (especially as SEC Media Days is pushed earlier and earlier in the calendar, to the point that there is nearly a month of time in between.) Still, it’s fair that the work of Nick’s Kids get has a day of recognition. There’s still plenty of time for the football frenzy that will start on Thursday when the full Alabama team takes the practice field.
Uniquely, football isn’t the only sport in the spotlight on Wednesday. The men’s basketball team is about to embark on a short but much-anticipated journey to Canada but before they head north, Coach Avery Johnson has arranged for the team to have an open practice at Coleman Coliseum. It’s not a Midnight Madness-style event — Alabama will almost certainly stage one of those in October. But it’s a chance for a sneak preview, like a trailer for the next “Star Wars” with a glimpse of Luke Skywalker in it.
A Collin Sexton/Skywalker comparison isn’t fair, no matter how many All-Star slam dunk competitions (including the iconic McDonald’s All-Star Classic) he won over the summer. That would be just one more brick on Sexton’s hype pile, which already is massive enough to build a new coliseum. There is no question, though, that he’ll be the stellar attraction at what may well be the best-attended basketball practice in UA history. (The overall record — 92,000-plus at the 2007 A-Day — remains safe.)
The savvy observer won’t go expecting a dunking exhibition, although there are bound to be a few rims rattled. What will really be worth watching will be the rare early peek at team dynamics. How much progress will sophomores Dazon Ingram and Braxton Key have made since last year? What sort of inside enforcer will Ohio State transfer Daniel Giddens be, and can he play alongside Donta Hall in a big lineup? What will be the roles of last year’s energizers, Riley Norris and Avery Johnson Jr.? Will they be challenged by the Crimson Tide’s touted and versatile freshmen, John Petty and Herb Jones? How will they stop Darth Vader … wait, that’s the “Star Wars” trailer again. But the 6 p.m. practice, free to the public, should offer hints to those other questions.
Football has its own questions and will at least allow a free look of its own on Saturday. They’ve been asked endlessly all summer, and there’s a risk that Saban has had one quarterback question too many even before practice starts. Most of the football freshmen have already made a public debut, thanks to the early-entry movement, although Henry Ruggs III, among others, may open some eyes.
The best news of all, though, is there’s a bit of positive news on the horizon. These days, we can all use it.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.