The Alabama Crimson Tide basketball program is in the middle of a process under head coach Anthony Grant to get the Tide back on the basketball map. Grant’s process took a huge step in the right direction with possibly the best recruiting class in program history.
Rivals.com came out with their final team rankings for the 2011 recruiting class, and while many Alabama fans expected the team to creep close to the top 10, nobody expected their beloved Tide to be sitting in the top 5.
Rivals ranked Grant’s great class 5th, behind only Kentucky, Duke, St. John’s, and Arizona. That’s pretty good company at the top of the rankings. Of course, recruiting rankings don’t mean all that much, but it’s still amazing to see the Crimson Tide getting recognized for pulling in one of the top classes in the nation.
If anybody is still questioning the move of firing Mark Gottfried, and bringing in Anthony Grant, then please feel free to slap yourself across the face. Coach Grant is moving the Tide basketball program in the right direction, and this recruiting class is just more evidence to support the fact.
Alabama signed six players in this class, and I’m going to go through a break each guy down to give you a better idea of what the Crimson Tide is getting to join an already strong group of guys set to return to Tuscaloosa for the 2011-12 season.
Trevor Lacey – 6’3’’ 190 (G/Huntsville, Alabama) Rivals Rank: 24
The biggest price of the 2011 recruiting class was Trevor Lacey signing with Alabama over offers from the likes of Kentucky and Kansas. Lacey is a five star prospect, and one of the top signees in ‘Bama basketball history.
Alabama lacked a big time scorer last season, and that is exactly what Lacey brings to the table. He averaged 31.2 PPG in his senior season at Butler high school. Lacey will benefit greatly from having a primary ball handler on the court in Trevor Releford, and he should be great playing off the ball.
Alabama’s defense was as good as any team in the nation last year, but they went through a lot of different stretches where they couldn’t get points. Alabama didn’t have a guy last season that they could go to and get a basket when they really needed it.
Trevor Lacey can be that guy. He’s going to have to buy into Grant’s defensive system, and if he does, than he can be a great player for the Crimson Tide.
Levi Randolph – 6’5’’ 190 (SG/Madison, Alabama) Rivals Rank: 30
Even if Trevor Lacey would have signed with Kentucky, people were still excited about this recruiting class. The main reason why was SG Levi Randolph from Bob Jones high school.
Randolph wasn’t as highly rated as Lacey, but he wasn’t far behind. He’s the 30th best player in the nation according to Rivals, and a four star prospect. Randolph had offers from Baylor, Florida State, and Vanderbilt, but ultimately decided to stay in-state with the Crimson Tide.
It’s obvious that Anthony Grant was looking for scoring in this class, and Levi Randolph also brings big-time scoring ability to the table. He has a good jump shot, and can hit from downtown. He’s developed a better mid-range game over the course of his high school career, and he’s also been praised for his passing ability and court vision.
Randolph is a guy that should fit right into Grant’s system, and he will be fighting Trevor Lacey for playing time next season.
Rodney Cooper – 6’5’’ 196 (SG/SF/Phenix City, Alabama) Rivals Rank: 49
Rodney Cooper was Alabama’s 3rd top 50 player in this recruiting class. Alabama is the first team in the SEC outside of Kentucky to pull in three top 50 recruits since Florida did it in 2007.
Rodney Cooper chose Alabama over offers from Clemson and Georgia last May.
Cooper is a longer-term prospect than Lacey and Randolph, but he could come in and contribute right away off the bench. He’s left-handed with great length, but needs to add some bulk in order to be successful at the next level. He’s been praised for his three-point shooting ability, but he can also beat the defender off the dribble.
The thing that could get him the most playing time right away with the Crimson Tide is his ability to defend multiple positions. He can block shots with his length, and bother shooters all over the court.
Cooper’s offensive ability needs polishing, but his defense should already translate to the college level.
Nick Jacobs – 6’8” 250 (PF/Atlanta, Georgia) Rivals Rank: 90
Nick Jacobs chose Alabama over Clemson and Georgia last October. Jacobs is Alabama’s 4th top 100 guy, and yet another four star prospect.
He was a center in high school, but at only 6’8”, he’s going to be a four at the college level. He averaged 23 points and 13 rebounds in his senior year at South Atlanta high school.
Jacobs is a big, physical guy that should fit right into Grant’s scheme. Alabama likes to play physical, and that fits Jacobs’ style. He has good footwork on the block, and has a deadly right-handed jump hook, which is deceiving to defenders because he is left-handed.
His range on the offensive end extends to about 15 feet. If Jacobs comes in and works hard right away in camp, he should seriously contend for the starting spot alongside JaMychal Green in the post.
Moussa Gueye – 7’0’’ 270 (C/Lake Land College) Rivals Rank: JUCO
Moussa Gueye is widely considered one of the top junior college prospects in the nation, and is a four-star prospect according to Rivals.
Gueye is originally from the Senegal, but spent the last two years playing for Lake Land College in Illinois. He was committed to Valparaiso at one time, but reopened his recruitment, and ultimately chose Alabama over the likes of Texas and USC.
Gueye will have two-years of eligibility left when he makes it to the Capstone, and he could very well start at center for the Tide next year, allowing JaMychal Green to slide to a more natural PF position.
Gueye is a high-energy guy, and is a very good defender and rebounder. He needs to develop more on the offensive end, but has range out to 12 feet or so. His injury past could be a problem with a stress fracture in his foot forcing him to miss time last season with Land Lake.
He should be a force on the defensive end for the Crimson Tide, blocking shots and frustrating opposing post players.
Retin Ojomoh – 6’1” 205 (PG/Antwerp, Belgium) Rivals Rank: NA
Ojomoh was a surprise final sign for the Crimson Tide in this year’s recruiting class. Ojomoh was on nobody’s radar, and Alabama was his only offer to play college basketball in America.
Ojomoh was a member of Belgium’s U-20 National Team, and has experience in their professional leagues. He’s only 17-years-old, and he’s relatively unknown. But, Anthony Grant thought highly enough of him to use his last scholarship to bring him on board.
Anthony Grant had this to say about Ojomoh.
“Retin will bring great speed and strength to our backcourt, he has a maturity level that you don’t see in a lot of 17-year-olds. The experience he has received playing in international competition will prepare him well for taking the next step in his career. Our staff is very excited about Retin joining our family and he has a very bright future.”
I watched a little film on Ojomoh after hearing about his signing, and he’s fast with a very quick first-step off the dribble. He’s extremely athletic for his size, and seemed to make the right decision with the ball on a consistent basis.
He should come in and compete with Ben Eblen for the backup PG job behind Trevor Releford.
This is easily one of the best recruiting classes in Alabama basketball history, and the program is moving toward becoming one of the elite teams in the SEC. Obviously, it’s going to take more than one strong recruiting class to build a program, but this could be the class that lays the groundwork for future top recruiting classes.
Anthony Grant’s process is working, and I’ve never been this excited for Crimson Tide basketball. Soon enough, the focus will shift completely away from the basketball team and toward the upcoming football season, but the excitement level about the basketball team is at an all-time high.