Category: Sports

Alabama lands JUCO transfer Keon Ellis

Alabama basketball and head coach Nate Oats continues to impress on the recruiting trail.

JUCO transfer and four-star guard Keon Ellis announced on his Twitter page that he was committed to the Crimson Tide. He picked Alabama over Kansas State, Western Kentucky, Iowa State, Middle Tennessee State and Fresno State.

The 6-foot-6, 165-pound combo guard averaged 18.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game at Florida SouthWestern State College. He earned SunCoast Conference Player of the Year and First Team All-Conference honors.

The Buccaneers finished the season 29-2.

247Sports has Ellis ranked as the third-best player overall and No. 1 combo guard on the JUCO market.

Still in consideration for the Crimson Tide is Yale transfer Jordan Bruner, three-star forward Darius Miles and JUCO transfer Saquan Singleton.

A world without sports–emptiness

I miss sports. I’m not afraid to admit it; it’s been a difficult couple of weeks for me. Watching the NCAA tournament unfold is what I miss most. That, and watching Alabama football spring practice.

Reading student-athletes’ emotional posts on social media is gut-wrenching. Watching seniors have their seasons ripped away is hard. It’s unprecedented. It’s hard to comprehend.

Sports will eventually come back. But, time past is already gone. An empty March that should be filled with madness is occupied by sadness. Memories and athletes’ precious time lost.

Amid the COVID-19, seemingly everyday life has stopped. Businesses have closed. People have lost their jobs. And we aren’t allowed to leave our homes—a global pandemic.

It’s bigger than sports. The games, the tournaments, the upcoming seasons all take a backseat.

And that’s ok. We understand.

But in a way, we are sports.

They are a distraction from a world that, at times, can be daunting. The New York Yankees lifted the city after the Sept. 11th attacks. Alabama football helped rebuild Tuscaloosa after the 2011 tornado. The New Orleans Saints rallied behind the city after Hurricane Katrina and the Houston Astros did the same.

Now, nothing.

That space is empty.

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I miss sports.

It’s ok to cry.

Right now, there are no sports to lean on in times of need. We have to fill the void in other ways.

So many unknowns. What-ifs.

How will schools handle athletes gaining an extra year of eligibility? Are their careers over? Will professional leagues be able to play? Or, will the seasons be canceled? What happens now?

It’s not fair.

As schools lengthen their closures, the future of sports is up in the air. If the NCAA tournament–whose played for 81 consecutive years through World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and President Ronald Reagan getting shot on the day of the 1981 national championship game–gets canceled and the Olympics get postponed a year anything is possible.

Sports gone for the year becomes a possibility we have to accept.

It’s hard. It’s not what any of us wanted. But it’s time to be grateful for all we do have. To never take anything for granted, especially things of luxury that can be taken away at any given moment.

Soon stadiums will be filled, bars packed with fans watching the game. It will again be a time we all come together, forget about what’s happening in the world around us, even if just for a moment.

But until then, we’ll get through it together.

Trio of Alabama players will enter 2020 NBA Draft

A trio of Alabama basketball players will be “testing the NBA waters.”

Wednesday morning Kira Lewis Jr. announced on Twitter his decision to enter the 2020 NBA Draft while keeping his eligibility. The sophomore, who reclassified to join the 2018 class, played last season as an 18-year-old.

In 2019-20, Lewis Jr. averaged 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. Over two years with the Crimson Tide, he had 1,031 total points, 260 assists and only 183 turnovers.

Hours later, John Petty Jr. took to Instagram announcing he will forgo his senior season to enter the draft.

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In 2019-20, Petty Jr. averaged 14.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He earned second-team all-conference honors after being one of the country’s best three-point shooters, ranking 9th nationally and first in the SEC shooting 44-percent from beyond the arc.

On Saturday, junior forward Herbert Jones announced on Instagram he will enter the draft while also keeping his eligibility.

Despite missing five games due to a fractured left wrist, he led the team in charges taken 22, deflections 84 and floor dives 31 while averaging 7.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Alabama basketball lands top Canadian recruit

Nate Oats and his staff landed top Canadian prospect Josh Primo when he committed to Alabama Friday morning.

The 6-foot-6, 180-pound guard, Primo, is a five-star recruit in 247Sports’ individual rankings and is ranked as the No. 7 combo guard and 27th-best overall player in the 2020 recruiting class.

He is the No. 17 pick in ESPN’s mock 2021 NBA Draft.

Along with the Crimson Tide, Creighton was his other finalist.

Despite whether or not guards Kira Lewis Jr. and John Petty Jr. keep their names in the NBA Draft or return to Alabama, the Crimson Tide’s roster is in good shape.

SEC cancels remaining sports for 2019-20

Amid the CoronaVirus and all the sports cancellations, the Southeastern Conference has become the latest to cancel all regular-season conference and nonconference competitions for the remainder of the 2019-20 athletic year.

“This is a difficult day for all of us, and I am especially disappointed for our student-athletes,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a prepared statement. “The health and well-being of our entire conference community is an ongoing priority for the SEC as we continue to monitor developments and information about the COVID-19 virus.”

Pro days and all spring football games will also be canceled.

Team and individual practices, meetings and other organized gatherings remain suspended through at least April 15.

Earlier Tuesday, the ACC announced it would cancel athletic activities through the end of the school year. The American Athletic Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 have all made similar decisions.

Most schools have moved to online learning and several commencement ceremonies have been canceled. Despite the changes, the SEC will continue to provide their student-athletes with the appropriate support in academics, medical care, mental health and wellness, nutrition and housing.

Fans who purchased tickets for the SEC softball and baseball tournaments will receive a full refund by March 31.

Brady no longer in New England, sets up the possibility for Tua Tagovailoa

Tom Brady’s 20-year run with the New England Patriots has come to an end, following a message he posted on Instagram Tuesday morning.

It is unclear what team Brady will sign with for the 2020 season, but it won’t be New England. On Wednesday, he will hit the league’s open market but could reach an agreement with another team Tuesday, when players and teams can negotiate deals.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the six-time Super Bowl champion has not made a decision. ESPN’s Dianna Russini, posted on Twitter that sources from both the Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have no idea what Brady is going to do. Both teams remain watching his every move, just like the rest of the public is.

But, Buccaneer’s general manager Jason Licht stated he has an interest in Brady and said that the two sides spoke Monday.

Brady leaves the Patriots as the most accomplished quarterback in the history of the game. He and Bill Belichick had one of the all-time great quarterback/coach tandems. And despite his final pass being a pick-six by former teammate Logan Ryan in the Patriots’ 20-13 playoff loss to the Titans, what he’s accomplished in New England cannot be ignored.

Three NFL Most Valuable Player awards (2007, 2010, 2017), tying him with Jim Brown, Brett Favre and Johnny Unitas for second-most all-time behind Peyton Manning. Fifteen Super Bowl records, four Super Bowl MVP awards, a record 13 conference title-game appearances and a record nine conference championships. He holds a record 17 division championships, has led the Patriots to at least 12 regular-season wins 13 times, the most all-time and became the first 42-year-old quarterback in history to start every game in a regular season.

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Replacing Brady isn’t easy, but the Patriots have a plan. Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round draft pick in 2019 who appeared in three games last season, is next in line.

Before his season-ending hip injury on Nov. 16 against Mississippi State, Tua Tagovailoa was a potential first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. But because of the injury, teams will pass up the opportunity to draft him. It’s not shocking nor a bad idea. Whether Tagovailoa can play football at the level he once did is still up in the air. Only time will tell and there’s no reason to risk it for some teams.

But, Brady leaving sets up the opportunity for Tagovailoa to somehow end up in New England.

The Patriots will have to trade up and Belichick will have to work his magic, but it’s not impossible. New England has the No. 23 pick in the NFL Draft, if somehow they can slide into the top-ten, they would have a chance at drafting Tagovailoa.

Belichick and Alabama head coach Nick Saban has a close relationship and it’s well known Belichick likes what he gets out of Alabama players.

Over three-years with the Crimson Tide, Tagovailoa had a career quarterback rating of 93.4, the best in the history of the metric (which was instituted in 2004). He set school record’s for passing touchdowns (87) and 300-yard games (10). He finished with 7,442 passing yards (3rd All-Time in Alabama history), set single-season records for 3,966 passing yards (2018), passing touchdowns (43) and holds a single-game record with six passing touchdowns against Ole Miss (2018).

The Patriots like what they see in Stidham, but he is untested. Tagovailoa, too, is unproven. But if healthy, he has the potential to be a special player and could be the perfect high risk-high reward move for the Patriots.

NCAA looks to give seniors eligibility relief

A day after the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s national basketball tournaments and stopped all spring sports in the middle of their seasons to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the NCAA Division I Council Committee has recommended that eligibility relief is given to all student-athletes who participate in spring sports. 

“Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later time,” the NCAA said Friday in a statement. “Additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and week.”

Almost every large sports organization has canceled, suspended, or held in place its future events. Regarding the NCAA, all spring sports were suspended and all remaining winter and spring championships have been canceled. 

The NCAA on Friday banned in-person recruiting for Division I coaches and advised schools to suspend official and unofficial visits until at least April 15.

In the next several weeks, the NCAA will evaluate and determine what has to be done when it comes to scholarship limits. 

It’s unclear what options, if any, will be considered for winter sports athletes. The season was nearly complete. Some teams were going to advance to the NCAA tournament and others weren’t. However, there has been talk about discussing the issue further in detail. 

Despite what the outcome is, these seniors deserve a second chance at a happy ending.

Sports have stopped and college seniors said their goodbyes

We have never seen a period like this in sports. It’s unprecedented. It’s hard to comprehend. We know sports aren’t everything. But sometimes we act like they are. We may scream too loud. Heckle the referee too much. But at the end of the day, we understand.

On Wednesday night, the NBA suspended the season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. Then, on Thursday, the dominos started to fall. First, the college conferences canceled their basketball tournaments. Then Major League Soccer and the National Hockey Leauge suspended its seasons. Major League Baseball canceled spring training games and delayed the start of the regular season for at least two weeks. March Madness was over before it began: The NCAA called off its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

It’s heartbreaking. For the fans. For the coaches. For the families. And for the athletes.

The effect of this is much bigger than sports, but sometimes sports is all these kids have to look forward to. It’s what keeps them pushing forward. Alabama junior guard John Petty Jr. was seen with a poster of himself walking out of Bridgestone Arena. Players were visibly shaken.

College softball and baseball players began spreading messages on social media. Many of whom were saying their goodbyes to the sport they love and the school they call home.

It’s nobody’s fault. It had to be done. The safety of human life is a top priority. No, if and or buts. But, to watch athletes that worked their entire childhood to shine on the biggest stage have it all snatched away from them in a blink of an eye is hard.

I’ve gotten to know several student-athletes during my time at the University of Alabama–some of whom I’ve become good friends with– and my heart aches for them. I’m sorry for each and every one of them, for having their season ripped away in an utterly devastating fashion. Accepting the fact your career is over is hard. These athletes dream of living that magical moment and having that fairy tale ending.

Now that won’t happen.

You all deserve better than this.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to end.

The NCAA should give spring student-athletes a year of eligibility back. They should wave the scholarship numbers for an unprecedented circumstance.

The positive of this situation is everyone coming together. Maybe, the cancellation of these major sporting events helped get the point across that this is a severe matter and taking action needed to happen.

But it’s ok to feel sadness. If you’re anything like me, the better part of your day is consumed by sports. I am a sports journalist. I write about sports. Now for the unforeseeable future, there won’t be games to write about. My day usually consists of reading multiple articles, watching ESPN, engaging with followers on social media, doing research–breaking down film on teams, games and athletes–and of course, writing. A lot.

Part of my DNA is tainted.

Coronavirus killed sports as we know it. There’s no March Madness for the first time in 81 years. No College World Series. No Women’s College World Series. No spring sports in general.

Seniors said their goodbyes and life will go on. But, forever, we appreciate you.

Alabama’s tournament hopes fall to Vanderbilt

When the city of Nashville needed someone to stand up and fight, the Vanderbilt basketball team was there to answer the call. On a night removed from the deadly tornados that killed at least 25 people, the Commodores came into Tuscaloosa and played some of its best basketball of the season.

Led by Saben Lee, scoring a career-high 38 points, with eight rebounds and five assists, with nothing to lose, they showed what it meant to play for something more than just basketball.

Alabama didn’t make it easy, though. Graduate-student guard James Bolden on his senior night hit seven three-pointers finishing with 24 points and three rebounds.

But even in the worst of circumstances, Vanderbilt gave Nashville something to cheer for. Even if only for a night.

With its postseason hopes hanging by a thread, the Crimson Tide (16-14, 8-9 SEC) couldn’t finish, losing its final home game of the season, 87-79. It is the Commodores’ (10-20, 2-15 SEC) first road SEC win since 2018 and just its second conference win of the season beating then ranked No. 3 LSU earlier in the year.

“Obviously a super disappointing loss,” head coach Nate Oats’ said in a press release. “That probably buries our tournament chances, which we kind of knew, barring us winning the SEC tournament, we probably aren’t going to be playing in it.”

Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. led Alabama with 30 points and four rebounds. He became the second-fastest Crimson Tide player to reach 1,000 career points. Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford finished with 18 points.

Despite the impressive numbers Alabama is putting up, they continue to have trouble with turnovers and junior forward Alex Reece. In the last 10 games, he is just 15-of-63 from behind the arc and since LSU, he is 8-of-32. Reece struggles to play stout defense and hold on to loose balls.

With one game left on the Crimson Tide’s schedule, whatever hope there was to make the NCAA tournament is now gone.

Its win the SEC tournament or get invited to the NIT.

As Cecil Hurt, of The Tuscaloosa News, pointed out, over the last four seasons, the Crimson Tide holds a 15-25 record, including an 8-12 home record in February and March. Despite what injuries there are, what players are eligible, or not eligible, nothing changes, the NCAA tournament should not be the expectation. 

“We talk about max effort here and we didn’t give it tonight,” Oats said. “I am really disappointed. This is not the first time we’ve done this, though. We are good enough. We lost at Kentucky, but when you look at the other top teams in this league, we beat LSU, we beat Auburn, go to overtime at Auburn, up 21 at Florida and end up losing, Mississippi State is in front of us in the rankings and we beat them. To me, that’s inconsistency and effort. We have to get that changed.”

Alabama plays its final game of the regular season Saturday at Missouri. Tipoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT.

Alabama wins a crucial game against South Carolina

If you had any doubts, put them to rest until a later date.

After trailing 12-1 early in the first half, Alabama (16-13, 8-8 SEC) was able to fight back and beat South Carolina, 90-86, keeping its NCAA tournament hopes alive.

“I told our guys during the week and before the game that I thought this game was one that would reveal a lot about our character and I thought it did, especially with the way we started,” head coach Nate Oats said in a press release. “South Carolina got up 12 in the first five or six minutes of the game.”

With junior guard John Petty Jr. out due to injury, freshman forward Javian Davis stepped up. He was physical and got to the foul line, finishing 11-of-15 from the charity stripe. Davis earned a double-double with a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Junior forward Herbert Jones continued to do the dirty work, despite only playing with one hand. Having two steals and throwing his body on the hardwood, the “One-Handed Bandit,” as the commentators dubbed him, continued to show why he belongs in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year.

 

 

Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. led the Crimson Tide with 25 points, finishing 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford added 18 points and seven rebounds. Jones had 10 points and eight rebounds, finishing 4-of-6 from the foul line.

Alabama outrebounded South Carolina 44-39 and only had 11 turnovers. The Crimson Tide attempted a season-high 47 free throws, capitalizing on 33.

Oats’ was called for his sixth technical of the season, making Alabama 6-0 in games he has been T’d up.

With two games remaining on the Crimson Tide’s schedule, there is an opportunity to reach 18 wins. That, and the chance to earn wins in the SEC tournament could be enough to get a bid into the NCAA tournament.

“This puts us in a great spot going into the last week of the regular season,” Oats said.

But it is crucial Alabama finishes strong and keeps its mishaps to a minimum.

Alabama hosts Vanderbilt (9-20, 1-15 SEC) in its final home game of the regular season Tuesday night. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT.