Things weren’t entirely new for the University of Alabama men’s basketball team on Tuesday as it officially opened practice for the 2019-2020 season with the exception of the head coach.
Nate Oats, who was hired as the Crimson Tide’s head coach in April, led the team through a two-hour workout at the Crimson Tide practice facility but wasn’t really dealing with unfamiliar faces. Relaxed NCAA restrictions on the amount of time coaches can spend with their teams at offseason skill sessions have allowed most of the UA players to work with one another, and the coaches, for the past few months.
“This was the first time (that) we could actually use the full allotted time,” Oats said after the two-hour practice. “It’s a lot longer than what they’re used to going, but I thought we did a pretty good job.
“We’re just trying to get our guys to play hard and play with some pace, and I thought they were giving a good effort. It was a little sloppy for the first day, but that’s expected.
“We’ve had all of these guys for the skill sessions so they are pretty accustomed to playing with each other. The only new guy was going to be (James) Rojas and he’s out (after knee surgery ended the season for the 6-foot-8 junior college transfer earlier this month). Everyone else was pretty familiar with each other.”
Three other players were also held out or practiced on a limited basis. Senior transfer guard Beetle Bolden is recuperating from surgery to “clean some things up in his shoulder, so he won’t be cleared to practice for a couple of weeks,” Oats said.
Sophomore center Galin Smith sprained an ankle in the early part of practice and is day-to-day, as is junior toward Herb Jones, who took a rest day for a sore shoulder on Tuesday although he did participate in conditioning.
Juniors John Petty and Alex Reese along with sophomore point guard Kira Lewis III were the leadership core of the team in the first practice.
Sophomore transfer Jahvon Quinerly, who came to UA from Villanova, practiced Tuesday but is still awaiting a response to his application for an immediate eligibility waiver from the NCAA.
“Everything’s been submitted,” Oats said. “We’re just waiting on the NCAA. Hopefully, we hear something sooner rather than later, but no update as of now.”
Oats also gave full breakdowns on each of the four new Crimson Tide freshmen after their first full collegiate practice starting with guard Jaden Shackelford from Hesperia, California.
“Shack has been really good,” Oats said. “His body was ready for college when he arrived. His stamina was ready. We did a VO2 max testing and he was at the top. He’s in great shape and goes really hard. His deal is that he’s used to being far and away the best player on his team so now he’s got to learn to play with four other really good players. In high school, him shooting a bad shot might have been the best shot his team was going to get. That’s not the case here. But his attitude has been great.”
“Jaylen Forbes (a 6-4 guard from Florence, Mississippi) has been a little sluggish. I’ve talked to him about getting better rest, getting better treatment. He will get there. He took a big charge in a defensive drill earlier.
“Juwan Gary (a 6-5 forward from Columbia, South Carolina) is playing really hard. He had a couple blocks in transition today. He’s just so athletic and his physicality gives him something. Raymond Hawkins (a 6-9 forward from Oakland) has got big upside. He’s behind Galin, behind Javian (Davis, who looks much improved after dropping 25 pounds after a redshirt year). But he makes plays here and there that show you how good he could be when he puts it all together.”
Alabama opens its regular season Nov. 5 against Penn.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt