By (Sean Landry)

Before Friday night’s exhibition game against Trevecca Nazarene, Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson had named exactly one starter: center Jimmie Taylor. Taylor had been lauded for his physical talent during his two seasons under Anthony Grant, but frequently found himself in foul trouble or removed from games by more physical centers. Johnson has been aiming to reverse those trends.

On at least one of those counts, he’s succeeded so far. Taylor picked up just one foul Friday night and finished the game with a plus-10 rating. On the other, however, he was less successful.

“He got a little frustrated because he just wanted some touches and wanted to play,” senior guard Arthur Edwards said. “Once we got him the ball, he seemed confident.”

Taylor has shown a reticence to go strong to the basket. On his first post possession of the game, he caught the ball on the left block, immediately dribbled into the lane and shot a contested floater. He earned a free-throw and made the basket in the process, but too often, Johnson said, Taylor has shied away from physical play on the offensive end. On most fast breaks, Taylor was the first player down the court, but he was only able to record three shots. He made all three.

“It’s not quite there yet,” Johnson said. “We shot a couple of shots, contested, where Jimmie should have had the ball. We’ve got to reward him a lot more for running down the floor. When we’re in the bonus, Jimmie has to be more aggressive to call for the ball. I would rather see Jimmie go to the free throw line 14 times and make eight than go to the free throw line and be 0-for-2 because he’s not aggressive to catch the ball.”

Johnson was able to counter Taylor’s struggles in the defensive post with a larger lineup featuring Dazon Ingram at point guard and Retin Obasohan at shooting guard. At one stage, Obasohan was switching from the Trojans 2-guard to defending the center, while Taylor flashed out to the perimeter to clog passing lanes.

Obasohan’s performance, either in practice during the week or in Friday’s game, earned him the second concrete starting spot alongside Taylor. The Belgian finished with a plus-25 rating and nine points on six shots.

“He’s also one of our co-captains,” Johnson said. “The team voted on it, and they voted for Jimmie and Retin almost unanimously, so that was pretty exciting. They got pretty much unanimous votes across the board.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports