BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The tempo is about to be turned up a notch on the basketball court in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
With Anthony Grant as the new men”s basketball coach at the University of Alabama, the team will play a different style from past years.
Grant developed a reputation for an up-tempo style of play in three seasons as coach at Virginia Commonwealth.
He plans to use the same approach at Alabama, but he knows there will be a transition.
“I think the players are excited, but it”s now a process of understanding what that means to play that way,” Grant said. “I”ve been pleased with their attention to the things we”ve asked them to do.”
Senior guard Mikhail Torrance said Grant recruited him when he was at Mary Montgomery High School in Eight Mile, Ala. When he learned Grant was one of the finalists to replace Mark Gottfried, who resigned last January, and Philip Pearson, who served as interim head coach, it caused him to perk up.
Torrance knew what Grant brought to the table as a coach and has fallen in line with his coaching philosophy.
“I knew how much he makes his players better,” Torrance said. “I”m athletic and I like to get out and run. When I heard that from coach Grant, I was ecstatic. He”s taught me a lot about how to be a point guard, what to look for, and how to pick my team up.”
Grant”s presence already has helped improve Torrance”s confidence.
“I feel like I”m on top of my game,” Torrance said. “He”s a great guy on and off the court. He watches film with me, just so I can get better. I just feel great about him being with the team. It feels good to have someone like that who really cares about you and wants you to be the best player you can be.”
Torrance said Grant has tried to get players out of their comfort zones in practices and he “doesn”t lower the bar with anybody.”
Grant said Torrance seems “extremely motivated” to make his senior season special, and believes he can be the focus of his high-octane program.
Torrance was Alabama”s second-leading scorer (10 points per game) last season and spent the last half of the season as the starting point guard.
Grant will enter the season with an open mind and said he”s not close to naming a starting lineup.
The Crimson Tide, who went 18-14 and 7-9 in the Southeastern Conference last season, return four starters, but that doesn”t mean they”ll be in the same role this season.
“I don”t have any returning starters,” Grant said with a grin. “I left those guys at VCU.
“We”re four or five days into (practice), but we hope some guys will step up and assume those roles. We”ve got 11 guys we”re looking at, and everybody will have an opportunity to compete.”
Grant led VCU to a 24-10 record last season and a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Rams lost to UCLA in the final seconds, 65-64. The NCAA appearance was the second in Grant”s three-year tenure at VCU and third straight postseason appearance. He was 76-25 overall and 45-9 in Colonial Athletic Association games.
A Miami, Fla., native, Grant served 10 years on the staff at the University of Florida, five years (1996-2001) as an assistant coach and five years as associate head coach under Billy Donovan (2002-06). He helped lead the Gators to their first national title in 2006 and laid the groundwork for UF”s 2007 national championship before departing for VCU.
Grant said he will get more familiar with his new players at Alabama and they will grow more accustomed to knowing what he expects from them. He hopes all of the players” confidence will grow as their learn his system.
Torrance said Grant already is pushing everyone to get better after an intense six-week conditioning period.
“We”re going to reap the benefits when the season starts,” Torrance said. “I”m already not as tired as I used to be (after a workout).”
Grant hopes the rigorous conditioning will create competition in practice and will help everyone be in top shape for season.
Torrance believes Alabama is ready.
“The style of play is fine,” Torrance said. “We”re going to be a lot better with so many athletes on our team. We”ve built the offense already and we”re pressing. It”s going to be fun.”
Alabama will play Montevallo (7:30 p.m. Nov. 4) and Augusta State (7 p.m., Nov. 10) in exhibition games before it opens the regular season Nov. 14 at home against Cornell. The time hasn”t been determined.