Avery Johnson said on Monday that his Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team was still working hard heading into the final four games of the regular season — but that it was also trying to work smarter.
In eliminating what he called “a lot of waste” in Alabama’s practice time, Johnson said he relied on advice from a coach with a track record of having his teams peaking as the SEC Tournament approached: former Crimson Tide head coach Wimp Sanderson. As a result, Johnson has reduced practices that used to well past the two-hour mark down to 75 minutes, a schedule that worked against Vanderbilt and remained in place as UA prepared for tonight’s game against South Carolina.
“It’s something I’ve talked to Wimp about in the past,” Johnson said. “He used to do the same thing during this time of year.
“Leading up to the Vanderbilt game, we had two of our shorter practices of the year. We took out a lot of drills that really weren’t helping us. We don’t just slide into practice any more. We start with a lot of energy. We are (practicing) about 75 minutes now, where in the past it could go to 140 minutes."
“We’re just trying to do what’s best for our team. We’ve got a young 17-year old point guard (Kira Lewis) and we require a lot from him. We don’t want him to lose his game legs (in practice) just so we can run some drills just because we think they are cute.”
Cuteness won’t go very far against South Carolina, perennially one of the most physical teams in the SEC.
“We were even in rebounding in our last game (against Vanderbilt) and (South Carolina is) probably five times better at rebounding than our last opponent,” Johnson said. “We’ve played against Chris Silva for four years. He’s a candidate for Player of the Year in the conference and he’ll embarrass you if you don’t bring your hard hat and go to work.”
Like Alabama, South Carolina still has hopes for an NCAA at-large bid despite a 5-7 record in non-conference play. Neither coach labeled the game as “must win” on Monday’s SEC teleconference.
“I try to give guys perspective of where we’re at instead of speaking about these as play-in games,” Martin said during a Monday news conference. “That’s me putting undue pressure on our players.”
— Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.