Five quick hits from SEC basketball media day:
1. At Thursday’s SEC basketball media day, Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said true freshman forward Devonta Pollard is getting adjusted to the program. He arrived on campus in the summer to get acclimated to the campus and his new teammates.
“Devonta is a guy that picks things up pretty well, but like any freshman, there’s no substitution for experience,” Grant said. “He’s got the attitude that he wants to learn and get better every single day.”
Grant was asked what he feels Pollard’s potential is.
“We need him to get better and impact winning,” Grant said. “Right now, he’s just getting adjusted from an academic standpoint, a time management standpoint, learning our system, from an offensive standpoint, a defensive standpoint…there’s a lot of things he’s got to do.
“My expectation for him is to come every day with an attitude to get better, to learn what it takes for him to accomplish things he wants to accomplish and to impact our team in a positive way.”
2. Grant spent a few minutes talking about junior center Moussa Gueye. Three years ago, Gueye lived in Sengal and hadn’t ever played organized basketball until he came to the United State and went to junior college.
Due to injuries, he’s really only has a year-and-a-half of experience. When he first arrived on campus in 2011, Grant said the 7-foot Gueye weighed about 280-300 lbs. He’s worked hard and is now in the 240-250 range, Grant said.
“For him, the biggest thing is understanding where he impacts the game, our system and how it will take every single day for him to understand and lock in,” Grant said. “That will determine the impact he’ll have for our team this year.”
3. Junior guard Trevor Releford, who was a second-team All-SEC selection last year, is Alabama’s most experienced returner. Grant said he has the opportunity to take on more of a vocal leadership role this season.
Grant also mentioned fifth-year player Andrew Steele and redshirt freshman Retin Obasohan as guys who will lead this team.
“Multiple guys will play multiple positions and take on multiple roles,” Grant said. “We’re trying to make this a competitive environment, get an understanding of what it takes to compete at this level and have a chance to play for championships.”
4. With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, every team now plays an 18-game league schedule. Grant said he’s happy with the SEC’s changes.
“This completely changes the landscape,” he said. “Playing 18 conference games this year by itself right there is a tremendous difference. Then you look at the quality of those teams, they bring in very strong basketball traditions to the SEC. There’s a different dynamic right now. Our league is extremely competitive.”
Grant cited Kentucky winning the national championship last year and the success of programs like Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
“A lot of great teams return great talent or have guys that didn’t have opportunities before because their teams were stacked and will now have opportunities,” he said. “We have a chance to make history in our league in terms of how many teams can get to the NCAA tournament.”
5. Just a couple of notes from Missouri head coach Frank Haith and Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s respective pressers that I thought were interesting...
Haith was asked about the cultural and stylistic differences between the Big 12 and SEC that he’s seen from watching film.
“One thing that really stands out is the athleticism in this league,” he said. “I also think they play a style, in terms of tempo defensively, that’s a little different than the Big 12—there’s more pressing, there’s more aggressive play, and extending your defense in this league than there was in the Big 12. That’s something we’ve got to get used to.”
Calipari was asked—several times—about the all-access show Kentucky has on ESPN.
“Is this the first all-access show? It must be the first one ever,” he joked. He then asked surrounding reporters, “Didn’t they do an all-access one for Alabama football?”
Before agreeing to do the show, Calipari said Kentucky checked with the SEC to make sure it was kosher. Critics knock it because they feel it gives the program an unfair advantage in terms of recruiting, etc. During his time with the media, Florida head coach Billy Donovan said that it was “not right” to use the show as a recruiting tool.
“If the league didn’t want us to do it, we weren’t going to do it,” Calipari said.
The main reason Calipari ultimately thought the all-access show was a good idea—despite not wanting to do it in the first place, “We kept telling them no,” he said—was to give his players an opportunity to show who they really are, that they do go to class and what it’s like to go to UK and play for Calipari.
Later in his presser, Calipari listed Florida, Tennessee and Missouri as the top programs in the SEC right now.
“They are the teams that stand above the rest of us,” he said (notice he used the word “us,” including his reigning national champion Wildcats).
For more Alabama coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!