2020-21 Roster: Big Breakdown
After a year riddled with injuries and a wing-heavy lineup, Alabama head coach Nate Oats has filled his toolbox with big men for the upcoming college basketball season. Among a batch of fresh recruits and a pair of star transfers finally hitting the court, Alex Reese will not have to stand alone in the paint anymore. The Tide will look to lean on these additions for help in the frontcourt while not having to sacrifice the squad's on-court identity.
Reese is the only true big man returning to Alabama this year, having started 26 games this past season and averaging around nine points and five rebounds per game. However, Reese shot under 40% from the floor and struggled overall on the offensive end of the floor, occupying a majority of the team's minutes for players in the paint. With a lightened load, Reese will have to improve his numbers from the floor and on the glass if he expects to stay on the court as much as he did in the 2019-20 season.
In the transfer department, forwards Jordan Bruner and James Rojas join the team after moving on from productive careers at other schools. Rojas, who transferred from Hutchinson Community College in 2019 but missed the entire season after a knee injury, brings a blend of scoring productivity at all levels of the court and a new level of physicality under the basket. While Rojas was a tremendous scoring presence in junior college, it is critical that he brings a similar level of play after not being able to take the court for an entire season, in addition to the increased level of play in the SEC.
Coupled with Rojas' return from injury, Jordan Bruner joins the team after leading Yale this past season with over nine rebounds per game, adding a solid three-pointer as he averaged one three made per game at just under a 33% clip. On the offensive end, the Yale transfer also flashes talent as a point forward, having notched just under four assists per game last season. Bruner will compete for a starting spot this season, as his skill on the boards will give a significant boost to a team which was led on the glass by a pair of wings in Herbert Jones and John Petty and still managed to finish third in the conference in that category.
In addition to the aforementioned pair of polished talents, Nate Oats was able to secure a pair of top-level forwards via the 2020 recruiting cycle. Four-star prospect Keon Ambrose-Hylton could look to play out on the wing and as a big when Oats deploys smaller lineups, with Ambrose-Hylton's light frame and springy style of play giving Alabama a combination wing-forward to utilize. More recently, Oats managed to swing reclassified French forward Alex Tchikou, who stands at 6'11" and will immediately become the team's tallest player, on July 6th. Tchikou has a malleable frame and loads of potential on defense, and his agility on the fast break will allow him to be more than just an interior offensive presence in his freshman season.
With the amount of depth Nate Oats was able to add coming into this season, the Tide may have found their answer for rim protection. For a team that was third in the nation in points per game, size and defense in the paint will be key to preventing teams from running up the scoreboard as Alabama looks to step up to the next tier of SEC basketball. If any of Alabama's big men this season begin to look like Robert Horry or Donta Hall on the defensive end, the level of play that Kentucky and, more recently, Tennessee have seen will be well within reach for this squad.
With the additions at forward and center that Oats has made, both through the transfer portal and in recruiting, this year's Crimson Tide team will be able to take a lot of responsibility off of the wings. While the forward position highlighted most of Alabama's offseason additions, their versatility both athletically and when shooting from the perimeter will aid, rather than alter, Oats' run-and-gun offensive tactics while strengthening a team which was among the SEC's leaders in rebounding and rim protection.
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