If Alabama is to take a step forward this season under the Little General, Avery Johnson, the frontcourt of the Crimson Tide has to be a strength of the team.
At least on paper, it appears Alabama can take forward strides, being solid at the 3 and the 4.
Start with Jimmie Taylor, who has started 78 consecutive games for the Crimson Tide and isn’t expected to see that streak end this season. Taylor is a senior and co-captain who has played 99 career games. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Taylor, one of the top post players in the position coming out of high school, doesn’t need to be the most productive player in the paint, but he does need to be consistent. There is no reason to think he won’t be. He’s a smart veteran player who can not only score when needed, but he play strong defense. He has blocked 158 shots in his career.
His ability to defend in the paint will be instrumental in helping the Crimson Tide to become one of the top teams in the SEC. So will his experience and leadership.
Shannon Hale is also back for Alabama, intent on taking his game to another level for his senior season with the Crimson Tide. Hale battled injuries a year ago but still managed to finish the campaign with a 10.8 points-per-game average. Hale might be the best scoring threat in the post for the Crimson Tide, having scored in double figures 15 times last season. He could be an even bigger scoring threat this season if he improves upon his field goal percentage from last season (41 percent).
Hale came into college hoops with great expectations. The four-star recruit ended up on the All-SEC Freshman Team and has steadily improved throughout his career.
Hale, if he can avoid the injury bug this season, has the potential to be one of the best scoring threats in the conference at the forward position, which in turn will give Alabama an opportunity to fashion a winning record in conference play. The Crimson Tide went 8-10 in the SEC last season.
Donta Hall is also back, coming off a freshman campaign in which he showed a great deal of promise. Hall played in all 33 games and racked up 56 blocks. He ranked sixth in the conference in blocks per game (1.7) and blocked four or more shots in eight games.
That success on defense bolstered Hall’s confidence. He is expected to be an even bigger presence in the paint this season.
Hall also has the potential to be an above-average offensive player. Sure, he averaged only 2.8 points per game last season, but he raised his production to 4.5 per game in the SEC tournament. He shot just over 60 percent from the floor, the best percentage on the team, and all signs point to him raising his productivity on the offensive end of the floor in the coming months.
One other player who could make a big impact for the Crimson Tide in the post this year is Braxton Key. The highly touted recruit who played his senior season at the famed Oak Hill Academy in Virginia has the potential to develop into a great scorer and rebounder. In high school, Key demonstrated an ability to rise to the occasion in big games.
While at Oak Hill, he scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the his team’s championship game. He was a two-time Mr. Basketball in Tennessee and led Christ Presbyterian to a state title in 2015. That season, he averaged 20.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Making the jump to the collegiate level is never easy, but Key should be able to make the transition. He could become one of the best freshmen in the conference.
No one is expecting Alabama to dominate this season, but if Taylor, Hale and Key step up, the Crimson Tide will be in a position to exceed expectations.