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March 7, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Coach, could you make an opening statement.
MARK GOTTFRIED: Well, I think like every team, we're excited to be here. It's a new season. Regardless of what's happened prior to now, everybody has a fresh start, And I think our players are excited about playing in the tournament.
And so we've had a couple really good days of practice. I think you're guys are zeroed in on Kentucky, more than anything else. And we're looking to the future and not concentrating on the past. Making sure that we're going to be as good a basketball team as we can be.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, let's go down to the student-athletes. Ronald, your thoughts on the Alabama team heading into the tournament, please.
RONALD STEELE: We feel good about our chance, like Coach said. We're excited about having the opportunity to come, and you know, have a new beginning as we're looking at it. We have a couple guys down, but the morale is good. Everybody's, you know, pretty intense and excited to have a chance to play.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, same for Jermareo.
JERMAREO DAVIDSON: Like Ron said, we're happy to be here. We have nothing but positive thoughts. We're looking forward to coming out and giving it our all.
THE MODERATOR: And Richard?
RICHARD HENDRIX: It's a new season. We started the beginning of the season on a 4-0 start, so we're hoping to start this season the same way.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, we'll take questions. If you'll raise your hand, we'll get a microphone to you.
Q. Coach, has a decision been made on Ron's status? And for Ron, just talk about how it felt when you worked out today and what you're looking forward to.
MARK GOTTFRIED: I think Ron is going to try to play. And like I've said recently, he's battled through this whole season. I know he wants to play. I don't know, and he and I have talked about this, I'm not sure that during this particular season he'll get to 100%. But if he can be effective, and I think he can, then he's going to be a contributor for our team.
So we're excited he's going to try to do that. We'll kind of see what happens.
Q. Same for Ron?
RONALD STEELE: It's just like Coach said, I'm going to try to give my all, just do what I can to help the team. Like Coach said, I don't think I'll be 100%, especially in these next four days. But I'm going to play as hard as I can and try to help us win.
Q. Coach, just a follow-up on that a little bit: Particularly given the potential for a four-game-in-four-days scenario, do you monitor if Ron tries to go out there, do you watch his minutes? How do you monitor that?
MARK GOTTFRIED: I think that would depend on how the game is played out. If for some reason you had a big lead, you may. But obviously, you've got to try to win the game. There is no tomorrow. You know, Ron will do whatever he can, and we'll be wise with that, with him. He hasn't practiced, obviously, and done a lot in ten or 11 days.
So, you know, he might be a little rusty, maybe his conditioning, you know, those things could be factors, too. So we'll just, I think you've got to get a feel for the game. But at the same time, you can't save it up for the next day when there may not be a next day, so you've got to play. And all of us will go from there.
Q. Coach, you talk about a new beginning and the players talk about a new beginning. But you had a pretty good win down in Tuscaloosa, what can you and the other couple players can comment on what you take out of that win over Kentucky then and how it applies now?
MARK GOTTFRIED: Well, I think if you've had some success against a team, that probably helps your confidence some. But at the same time, you know, we've got a lot of respect for their team, their program, their players, their coaches, all of those things. I think that, you know, they're still very, very good. What we did in one game sometimes doesn't have a whole lot to do with what happens in the next game. You know, they're separate games and I think that's kind of the way we're looking at it.
RONALD STEELE: I think when you get to the SEC Tournament, you throw out who beat who. You know, it is a different environment. Teams are getting a lot better, and teams understand what's at stake. So I think you know, we're going to take and look at what we did well, and try to continue to do that. But also we're not going to dwell on, you know, we beat them in the regular season. This is a new game, a new beginning.
THE MODERATOR: Jermareo, anything to add?
JERMAREO DAVIDSON: Just I feel the same as Ron. We're pretty sure they're going to come out and give it their best shot. They're not focused on what happened in the past. They're looking for the same goal as we are. So we're both going to come with it.
THE MODERATOR: Richard?
RICHARD HENDRIX: I have to agree with what everyone else says. You know, Kentucky's going to come out and try to give it their best shot, but you know, we're going to be ready. We'll play as hard as we possibly can, and take it one game at a time.
Q. Ron, have you tried to move and cut and sprint? And then also, what's it been like for you watching the last four games?
RONALD STEELE: Yeah, I've had the last two days where I've done more than I've done in the past. You know, being on the bench, watching the team, you know, it's been miserable for me just knowing that I can go out and help, you know. Especially when we've been struggling. But I just try to take the thing that I learned on the sidelines, and try to apply it to me playing now.
So I'm excited, really excited to have a chance to get on the court and play.
Q. Jermareo, considering all the stuff you've been through this year, how does it feel to be back home and have a chance to play? I saw you out there a little gimpy, how's your health and talk about being back in Atlanta playing?
JERMAREO DAVIDSON: It feels good to be home. Being able to play, I'll have a lot of family come out, and just to be in this situation that we are. Hopefully we can make a good thing out of this.
And as far as my health, my back is bothering me a little bit from the Mississippi State game, but that's up in the air, I've just got to go with how I feel.
Q. Ronald, for those of us who didn't get out of medical school, what all is wrong with you? Which hurts the worst, and how much are you limited in what you can do on the court right now?
RONALD STEELE: Well, you know my left knee is really the main thing that's bothering me now. I think I'll pass the other things. But, you know, I don't know, I haven't played in so long, I forgot how it feels to get out there. So I'm just going to be excited to play.
You know, like Coach says, there's no tomorrow. You know, we can't afford to hold back and monitor. We just have to go and win the game. I'm going to do whatever I can to help us win.
MARK GOTTFRIED: Dr. Gottfried will step in here. He's got a bone bruise on the femural condural (sic). (Laughter).
That's what they told me. So I don't know what that means. I couldn't spell that either, but it's something like that.
Q. My question's for Jermareo, this is like this other guy behind me asked, if you could expand on it: Obviously there is tremendous tragedy you had to overcome here in Atlanta. You're returning here, I'm wondering your emotions. Is it tough coming back here? Were you better off being back in Tuscaloosa? Are you awash with memories and emotions? What's going through your mind? Have there been any updates on the accident and such?
JERMAREO DAVIDSON: As far as the whole incident, it feels the same no matter where I'm at. So Atlanta, Tuscaloosa, Florida, whatever, it's still with me. So I mean, it comes a time where I've got to find a way to put it to the side. I have my moments which are kind of tough, but I've got to do it for myself and for my team.
Q. This is for the players: Mark talked to us Monday about toughness being the key issue to resolve between Monday and the game Thursday. Can y'all talk about what you thought of those comments? And if you feel like you're ready to answer that toughness question? Ron?
RONALD STEELE: I think anybody that watched that game saw that we didn't play tough at all, you know. That's a player's responsibility. It's not X's and O's, it's not plays like that. We feel like that is something we can control. We can't control making shots and things like that, but we can always control how we play, and how hard we play. So, you know, our goal is if we're going to lose, we're going to lose playing as hard as we can. And we'll have peace knowing we did the best we could.
JERMAREO DAVIDSON: At this moment, you've got to bring your all. Just mentally tough, physically tough. I think that's what Coach would want from us. It shouldn't have gotten to the point where he had to ask us for that. But we're ready to step up and not to let that same thing happen twice.
RICHARD HENDRIX: Just have to bring a tougher mentality come tomorrow than we did in the last few games out. Just play as hard as we can, and just go out, like Coach says, and throw the first punch.
Q. It would appear, on paper anyway, that if you have an advantage against Kentucky, it would be inside. If I could have Richard, Jermareo, and Coach, if you want to comment on that, do you have an advantage inside? Is that somewhere where you want to go?
RICHARD HENDRIX: You know, going inside, that's one of our strengths of our teams. A lot of the credit goes to the outside; when the guards are on their game, it just makes things so much better and easier for us down low.
But, you know, I don't know. We're just going to play hard, and hopefully everyone's game is clicking inside and out.
JERMAREO DAVIDSON: Like Richard said, we're just going to go with the flow. They feel we have strength inside, I'm pretty sure they'll find a way to cover us even more. So they'll leave it open for the outside guys. So we just see how it goes and they start one thing, we'll go to another, and just go from there.
MARK GOTTFRIED: Well, I would say that, you know, teams have different strengths, you know. And like a question was asked earlier with Jermareo, and he, you know, kind of injured his back in the Mississippi State game. He's not practiced. I think you guys watched today, if you were watching, he's not done anything since Sunday so how effective he can be, we don't know yet. You know, he wants to play, he wants to play hard and well, but injuries have kind of been a thing with this team all year long. And right now we're unsure, I think with Jermareo, even if he can play.
So, you know, again, different teams have different strengths. If we're healthy, you know, obviously if your point guard is healthy, we're a different team. So we'll see how it goes.
Q. Mark, how much do you think the NCAA Tournament selection committee might consider the injury problems you have, in evaluating Alabama?
MARK GOTTFRIED: I think they always consider injuries, how it affects our team, I don't know. I have no idea. But I do know that that's a factor when you're looking at teams. We'll see if that plays into our situation or not, I don't know.
Q. Steven Hill got Defensive Player of the Year, wonder if you could comment on that, and just his defense.
MARK GOTTFRIED: I think he's well deserving of the award. He's an interior player that can change the game with how he blocks shots. I think he's gotten better. He's improved.
I thought that was very well deserving for him to receive that award.
JERMAREO DAVIDSON: He's a great guy. He has a great presence down low. He changed the game a lot with his blocked shots. So adjusting someone else's shot, just contesting, period, I think he deserved it.
RICHARD HENDRIX: I think this award is well deserved, you know. For guys his size, he has such good timing, and just able to change so many shots and make things easier for his teammates, knowing that he has that Razorback under the glass.
So you know, he's well deserved. He's a great player.
Q. Richard, I was wondering, with Ronald back out at practice now, can you guys feel, does practice feel better with all of you guys -- I guess Jermareo's out, but does it feel better with him out there? Has it been sort of a lift?
RICHARD HENDRIX: It gives you a little more sense of confidence knowing that you have your point guard. One of the best players, best player on the team back and able to practice with you. It just brings so many different things to the game. So many different threats. It makes it easier for everyone else to play the game and enjoy it.
Hopefully with a healthy Jermareo tomorrow, and a healthy Ron, we can be really an enjoyable out there on the court. And just go out there and play our game.
Q. Mark, referencing the toughness thing, the question again, what you've done in practice the past few days, do you sense the team has a different attitude now?
MARK GOTTFRIED: Yes. Yes. We'll find out tomorrow at one o'clock. But what I've got is, I've got a great group of people. Like I said the other day, that's I'm putting that on myself. That's my responsibility. I feel like I have failed at times in that regard. These kids have responded. They've done a great job. We've practiced really hard the last couple of days. I think they're absolutely ready to play here in Atlanta.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts