Skip to content

Trevor Releford helps teammates learn by coming off the bench

Nov 16, 2012, 2:11 AM EDT

Oregon State Beavers v Alabama Crimson Tide Getty Images

NEW YORK – Last season, Alabama had plenty of preseason expectation.

There weren’t exactly picked to run through the SEC — that won’t happen for anyone as long as Coach Cal is stockpiling first round picks up in Lexington — but the Crimson Tide were a trendy pick to finish second in the conference in 2011-2012. That didn’t happen, however, as Alabama watched their star upperclassmen manage to get themselves suspended in the middle of conference play. Tony Mitchell went so far as to get himself kicked ou of the program.

As a result, the Tide floundered, limping into and out of the NCAA tournament with an opening round loss to Creighton. With a very young team returning for this season — the core of Anthony Grant’s team are freshmen and sophomores, with the exception of junior point guard Trevor Releford — the tidal wave of hype hitting the gridiron this season did not find its way into Coleman Coliseum.

But after starting the season 3-0, including last-second wins over South Dakota State and Oregon State, all of a sudden the Crimson Tide look like a group that might be able to make a run at an at-large bid. And their doing it while bringing arguably their most important player off of the bench.

“I just felt like it’s the right thing for our team right now,” Grant said of bring Releford off the bench. “He understands what we’re trying to do and I think he’s been really, really good for us, if you look at the numbers he’s putting up, the leadership he provides, the spark that he gives us. I think it’s good for our team.”

Releford certainly is putting up numbers. In the two games against Division I competition, Releford is averaging 16.0 points while shooting 12-23 (52.2%) from the floor and handing out seven assists to just a single turnover. More importantly, however, when Releford is on the floor, Alabama’s offense simply runs more smoothly. He’s a point guard. He’s a facilitator. He gets the Tide into their offensive sets and he breaks down the defense if that doesn’t work.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Alabama’s sixth-man has been their MVP through the first week of the season.

“He’s a good kid and I think he understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Grant said. “He understands the bottom line is that he’s going to be out there and have an opportunity to make plays. If you look the games we’ve played, he’s out there. I think too much is made sometimes of whether or not a kid’s starting or not.”

Grant’s thinking is that early in the season, he needs to start developing his younger and more inexperienced players. He needs to build a rotation and develop a bench. He needs to get the guys that are going to be counted on in March into games early and allow them to get a sense of what it means to play basketball at this level.

“For us to be where we want to be, we have to build confidence in our young guys. We have an extremely young team,” Grant said, and Thursday’s 65-62 win over Oregon State was the perfect example in his eyes. After extending the lead to as much as 15 points on the Beavers, Alabama allowed them to claw their way back into the game. This is how close the Beavers were to coming all the way back — Ahmad Starks hit a three that would have tied the game with just a couple ticks left on the clock if his head coach hadn’t called a timeout a second before he released the shot.

“The mark of a young team, we thought “clock run out” as opposed to going and finishing the game,” Grant said. “The thing I told our guys is we gotta learn from this game how to stay aggressive and compete and do the things that allows us to build the lead from an offensive and a defensive standpoint, and we kind of got away from that.”

Alabama has some pieces this year. In addition to Releford, sophomores Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper join freshman Devonta Pollard to give Grant a talented perimeter rotation loaded with potential. Throw in a trio of big bodies in the paint and senior swingman Andrew Steele, and this is a group that can ruffle some feathers in a top-heavy SEC if they can manage continuing to learn how.

“I think it’s an opportunity to learn, and I think the best way to do that is to win,” Grant said. “I’d rather learn through winning than learn through losing and have to take some heartbreaking losses to clear things out.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Highlights of Kansas blowing out Chile in the World University Games

    Jul 7, 2015, 11:16 AM EDT

    billself Getty Images

    The Jayhawks … err, Americans … are now 3-0 in the event.

  2. Four-star Class of 2016 point guard decommits from Oklahoma

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    payton-pritchard-2412-xl-e1405347706789

    Four-star point guard Payton Pritchard is going to explore his options heading into the July live evaluation period.

  3. Northwestern adds four-star Class of 2016 center to recruiting class

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    barret benson

    Northwestern continues to get good local pick-ups in the 2016 class.

  4. La Salle guard will transfer and become immediately eligible

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Khalid Lewis #23 of the La Salle Explorers looks on against the Massachusetts Minutemen during the Second Round of the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. La Salle Explorers defeated the Massachusetts Minutemen 76-69  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) Getty Images

    La Salle is losing an experienced guard to transfer.

  5. Report: Tennessee incoming freshman point guard still not enrolled

    Jul 6, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    lamonte turner

    One of Tennessee’s only options at point guard is enrolling closer to the school year.

  6. Four-star Class of 2016 shooting guard favors 10 schools

    Jul 6, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    One of the better shooting guards in the country is focused on 10 schools.

  7. Michigan basketball will change to Jordan Brand from adidas as school announces new Nike deal

    Jul 6, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Michigan is going with the Jumpman under its new apparel agreement.

  8. Syracuse, not Kentucky, leads the nation in average attendance

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:48 PM EDT

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Kentucky had led the nation in average attendance for eight straight years.

  9. Florida State lands commitment from five-star 2016 prospect

    Jul 6, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 12.52.11 PM

    Jonathan Isaac is loaded with potential.

  10. Air Force loses freshman forward Garrett Thibodeaux to UTSA

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

    Dave Pilipovich Dave Pilipovich

    Thibodeaux’s decision came eight days after he began basic training.

  11. Alabama self-reported 13 minor violations last academic year, including one for men’s basketball

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    University of Alabama University of Alabama

    All of the violations were deemed to be Level III or Level IV violations, which isn’t a big deal at all.

  12. How the non-US college players fared in the FIBA U19 World Championships

    Jul 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp Getty Images

    Plenty of college basketball players were in the FIBA U19 World Championships besides the Americans.

  13. USA U19 team wins in overtime of gold-medal game over Croatia at FIBA World Championships

    Jul 5, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    The USA U19 team captured back-to-back FIBA World Championships for the first time since 1983.

  14. Mississippi State lands transfer wing

    Jul 5, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Mississippi State landed a commitment on Sunday from a transfer.

  15. Kansas/USA defeats Brazil at World University Games

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kansas (USA) is 2-0 so far at the World University Games.

  16. Mixtape of Class of 2016 five-star guard Markelle Fultz (VIDEO)

    Jul 5, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    markelle fultz

    Markelle Fultz is one the best guard prospects in the country.