Avery Johnson is not a big fan of the status quo or tradition for tradition’s sake. When Johnson accepted the head coaching position last year he promised change at his inaugural press conference.
Alabama was not going be a team simply striving to make the NCAA Tournament. Johnson wants to win the tournament or at the very least make a deep run in it on a regular basis.
With the Crimson Tide’s current 11-8, 2-5 SEC record an invite to the NCAA Tournament seems like a longshot, but beating South Carolina, a team just outside of the AP Top 25, on Saturday certainly wouldn’t hurt.
“[South Carolina’s] physical, they definitely crash the boards,” Arthur Edwards said. “Coach Avery said their best shot is a missed shot because they send four to the glass so we really got to make contact, and box out. Since they send four to the glass we should have some easy transitions.”
Alabama won’t have many transitions to take advantage of if the team doesn’t fight for rebounds. When these teams met on Jan. 13, South Carolina managed to grab 15 offensive rebounds, but the Crimson Tide won the overall battle on the boards 38-35.
In that game Alabama handed the then-unbeaten Gamecocks a 23-point defeat, and Edwards said he expects to face a motivated opponent looking for revenge tomorrow.
One reason Alabama won that game by such a large margin was due to the play of Riley Norris. In his first start of the season, Norris shot 8-of-11 behind the arc and finished with 27 points.
“We’ve been a little bit of a different team since Riley’s been inserted into the lineup,” Johnson said. “Riley gives us another added attitude, and aggressiveness and physicality that we desperately needed.”
That was just one change Johnson has made as the season progressed that has seemed to pay dividends for Alabama. He hopes his other changes will have similar effects on the team down the stretch.
For his players, Johnson has begun ending every practice with free throw shooting drills after the team was unable to pick up wins against teams like Auburn and Vanderbilt largely due to poor shooting from the free throw line.
“We don’t want to run [if any of us miss],” Edwards said. “You just want to have that fake pressure in your head and still knock it down.”
Johnson said making the entire team run if a player missed free throws provides the players with accountability, and it seems to be working in practice. On Friday, Retin Obasohan and Jimmie Taylor were the only ones to miss two free throws.
Johnson’s adjustments don’t stop with a simple end of practice drill. Winning on the road is tough and he said he has to do a better job of helping the team settle down in road environments like the one the team will be in tomorrow.
“I’ve gone back and not only do I evaluate the players, I evaluate myself in terms of the craft of coaching,” Johnson said. “I got to do a better job of using some timeouts earlier, teach a little bit better during those timeouts, make sure I’m in the huddle early, make sure that I’m crystal clear on what we need to do.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports