#144 Alabama State Men's Basketball Preview


Alabama State Hornets

Overall Rank: #144
Conference Rank: #1 Southwestern Athletic

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2010-11: 17-18, 11-7
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Lewis Jackson (107-92 at Alabama State, 107-92 overall)

Alabama State got off to a slow start last season, which is often the case for a team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference who plays a tough non-conference schedule. However, in the case of the Hornets their losing ways continued well into the conference campaign. It was not until February when Alabama State turned things around. In February and March, Coach Lewis Jackson’s team won 11 of 13 games, with one of those losses coming in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament to UTSA. The Hornets have a lot of new faces, but the core of the team returns. It will be Jeff Middlebrooks’ job to carry forward the continuity despite the turnover. The 6-1 senior point guard is not a scorer, but he dished out 2.8 assists per game and should turn into the leader of this team as the steady ball handler.

Who’s Out:
Tramayne Moorer was the team’s leading scorer during the 16 games he was around and the 6-5 forward’s ability to score and rebound will certainly be missed. Chris Duncan, Robert Sanders, Patrick Davis, Stephawn Brown and Shareif Adamu also earned quite a few starts and the frontcourt will certainly need to be rebuilt without them around. The most notable losses on the perimeter are A.J. Spencer and Dwayne Harvey. Spencer was only around early in the year anyway, so the Hornets are used to winning without him and Harvey took a back seat to Middlebrooks the entire season. The departures of Kaylim Noel and Ivan Johnson hurt the team’s overall depth on the wings and the newcomers will have to fill those voids.

Who’s In:
Fortunately Alabama State has a few options heading to Montgomery. Josh Freelove is a junior college transfer who will battle for minutes on the wing right away. Incoming freshmen Dominique Miller and Luther Page could also spend some time at the three spot. Paige, at 6-6, has the size to also help out in the frontcourt. Phillip Crawford is the player who will likely make the biggest splash during his first season with the Hornets. The 6-7 transfer from Pearl River Community College has the size, strength and experience to immediately step into a starting role. Even if he is not ready, he will likely be forced into action anyway due to a lack of other options. One of those few options is incoming freshman Eugene Johnson. He may not be the most polished forward around, but he does have plenty of potential. If that potential can come out sooner rather than later, it will go a long way to helping his team reach the NCAA Tournament yet again.

Who to Watch:
Coach Jackson will almost have to play small with this particular group. Ivory White and Kenderek Washington ideally would be wings. But both being 6-4, one of them will need to spend at least some time at the power forward position. One of the catalysts to this team’s success late last season was moving White to the bench. The senior proved to be a nice fit off of the bench and could spark the offense and defense with his abilities. However, that luxury may not exist this time around and White needs to step into a starting role. After averaging 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals last year, it is time for White to be productive in a starting role. Washington is the slightly bigger player, but he fits better at the small forward spot offensively. He is a decent outside shooter, but is not as strong of a rebounder as White. Washington should emerge as one of the better scorers on the team.

Final Projection:
The best scorer on Alabama State will likely be shooting guard Tramaine Butler. The 6-2 senior missed the better part of ten games early last season, which was yet another reason for the early struggles, but turned up his game late in the year. In total he had four outings in which he scored 20 or more points and he ended his junior campaign averaging 10.7 points per game. Butler does most of his damage by attacking the basket or pulling up for a mid-range jumper, but he can hit the long ball on occasion. He is just very streaky and needs to do better than 25.3 percent if he hopes to carry this team in the scoring department. The only other returning player is Ryan Watts. He did not play much as a freshman, but is a much better shooter than his numbers last year would indicate. At the least he should be a decent shooter off of the bench.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Jeff Middlebrooks, Senior, Guard, 4.9 points per game
Tramaine Butler, Senior, Guard, 10.7 points per game
Kenderek Washington, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Ivory White, Senior, Guard, 7.1 points per game
Phillip Crawford, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

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