Coach Grant: Releford, Steele could play vs Gators
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP)
Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant said Monday that guards Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele will ''most likely'' return for a game that could supply a huge boost for the NCAA tournament hopes of a team once flirting with the top 10 - or a second-straight setback minus key players.
''The main thing right now for our guys to understand is the importance of making good decisions and understanding the consequences when you make poor decisions and then moving on from that and learning from that,'' Grant said. ''So we're dealing with that. It's disappointing and unfortunate that we have to deal with this in the middle of the season.
''It is what it is, so right now as a team we have to focus on the things we can control, and we have a very challenging game here against a very talented opponent in Florida. We have to get ready to play the game.''
Grant suspended Green, Releford and Steele indefinitely a few hours before Saturday's loss at LSU for violating team rules, sending them packing for Tuscaloosa before tipoff.
That was also the second game of Mitchell's suspension.
The disciplinary actions left the Tide (16-8, 5-5 Southeastern Conference) without players responsible for 69 percent of its scoring, 57 percent of rebounding and 54 percent of assists even after that game at a time when the stakes are ratcheted up. Green and Mitchell are the team's top scorers and rebounders, while Releford leads Alabama in assists and Steele is a key role player.
Grant said his decision to hold the players out had much to do with the long-term quality of the program and trying to build ''the values and standards that you want your team to represent.'' He hasn't elaborated on the reasons for the suspensions.
Grant declined to say if the violations of Mitchell and Green were more serious, but reiterated that their suspension remained indefinite.
''I don't want to get into that, that's just the way it is right now,'' he said.
This is the third time Grant has suspended Green, a first-team All-SEC player, during his three seasons, including a three-game string early last season and one game at the end of 2009-10.
Grant didn't rule it out when asked if he had a ''three-strike'' policy that might keep Green from returning.
''I'll make some decisions on that later,'' he said. ''Right now my focus is on getting prepared for Florida.''
Alabama had risen to No. 12 in the rankings in December and won three straight before the LSU game.
The bold decision on the suspensions was no surprise to Gators coach Billy Donovan, who was Grant's boss for a dozen years at Marshall and Florida.
''I know Anthony Grant about as well as anybody, and I think that he has got incredible integrity and character and knows exactly the way he wants his program run and what he's going to do,'' Donovan said.
The Tide's eight remaining players - half of them freshmen - managed to come fairly close before losing 67-58 to LSU, with freshman Rodney Cooper scoring 28 points. Alabama had beaten Auburn by 18 points without Mitchell.
Now comes a much bigger challenge, even with Releford and Steele.
The Gators (19-6, 7-3) opened last March with a 78-51 rout of a Tide team that still had aspirations of winning an SEC title and making the NCAA field.
Apparently, Grant subscribes to his old coach's philosophy that ''in order to win big, you've got to be prepared to lose big.''
''I think Anthony's attitude is he's not going to be the kind of guy that's just going to plug holes in a leaking ship,'' Donovan said. ''He's just not going to plug it because eventually that stuff, at some point it's going to rear its head and it's going to bite you.
''There's a certain way I think Anthony wants to go about his team playing, what they want to do every single day in practice, how they want to conduct themselves. I'd say right now Anthony probably has the full attention of his team, because they know right now there's a certain way they have to do things or they're not going to play.''