It’s very rare around here for a college basketball article to be written in early July. Of course, it is also rare our entire country is overwhelmed with a new virus which essentially puts a stop to all sports, so, here we are.
When Alabama hired Anthony Grant to helm its hoops program a decade or so, I lauded the move with praise and the prediction of greatness. I was wrong.
When ’Bama followed Grant’s departure with the signing of former NBA head coach Avery Johnson, I was excited and assumed Johnson would instill a fun, must-see offense. Again, I was wrong.
It was only natural for me to be twice bitten/thrice shy when the Tide scooped up young Nate Oats from the University of Buffalo two seasons ago. Although Oats seemed to have that small-school-doing-big-things mentality, I didn’t want to get my hopes again Oats’ success at Buffalo would automatically translate to SEC basketball.
Oats’ initial stint in Tuscaloosa last year wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t great either. One bit of good news about the coronavirus-shortened season: Because there was no SEC Tournament nor an NCAA Tournament, Alabama can claim it didn’t really “miss” a chance at going to the Big Dance. (Every school can claim that, but there were probably 30 or so programs that knew they would have been dancing without the play stoppage so the cancelation hurt them more).
Apparently, Oats and his staff have used the extra time available to them to recruit because Alabama’s signing class for 2020 has turned into one of the top 10 classes in the country after the late commitment of Alex Tchikou.
Before you ask, I do not know how to pronounce that name either. But, I am hoping it is an elongated way to spell “Choo” so when his name appears in the box score, it will be “A. Choo.”
Regardless of the pronunciation, this player is nothing to sneeze at. This talented 6’11” prospect has a nose for scoring and a sick shooting range for someone his size. His highlights make you feel so badly for his defenders you ultimately say, “Bless you.”
(Did those “achoo” references do anything for you guys? I kind of liked them, but I am a little goofy).
The lone hiccup I see on the road to his ultimate success is Tchikou is a relatively newcomer to basketball — he’s been playing competitively for only about three to four years — and he is reclassifying from the 2021 class to 2020, so he, along with ’Bama’s other much-touted signee, Josh Primo (who also reclassified) will be very young even for freshmen. Aside from his age, Tchikou seems destined to be in the NBA sooner rather than later.
When considering the additions of other really strong transfers along with the five-man signing class, this 2020-21 Alabama team will look markedly different from its predecessor. That said, my bet is the team is much more dynamic and fun to watch. Even without Kira Lewis running the show, it is safe to feel optimistic again if you are a Tide fan.
If we ever get past this virus and have another NCAA Tournament, I fully expect Alabama to be a part of it.
Luke Robinson is a regular columnist, contributor to BMetro, AHSAA Radio Network broadcaster and Sportz Blitz team member.