Steele’s injury-marred Tide career over

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TUSCALOOSA — Ronald Steele’s once promising but injury-marred Alabama career is over.

The Crimson Tide point guard, once an All-Souteastern Conference first team pick, has decided to forego the rest of his senior season after sustaining a foot injury. But he said Wednesday his physical condition was “definitely not the reason I am leaving the team.”

Steele had returned after missing last season while recovering from operations on both knees to repair cartilage defects, including a follow-up procedure on his left knee.

He had been sidelined the past two games this season with a heel injury, both Tide losses, leading up to Wednesday night’s game with Mississippi.

“As it stands now, with my physical condition, I have Plantar Fasciitis, which is a small but painful condition many players have,” Steele said in a prepared statement he read to The Tuscaloosa News in a phone interview. “It is definitely not the reason I am leaving the team. After many hours of praying and consulting with my family, teammates and close friends, I have decided it is in my best interests to move on.”

Steele, who could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press, said his decision was not a reflection on the university and declined to say if he had any conflict with Tide coach Mark Gottfried.

“I just felt that there were decisions that I didn’t feel were in my best interests,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

He said it wasn’t an “isolated event” that led to his leaving the team. Steele also said he might have been able to return from his foot injury this season and plans to continue his basketball future “as long as I can.”

Gottfried announced Steele’s decision in a statement released Tuesday evening.

“This is a very difficult time for Ron as his injuries have been very unfortunate and difficult for him,” he said. “I’ll always be indebted to his contributions to our program and the University of Alabama and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

Steele was averaging 12.9 points and 3.7 assists and hitting a team-best 38 percent of his 3-point shots. He seemed to be returning to the form that made him a preseason AP All-American two years ago when he had 23 points and 10 assists in a win over Georgia Tech.

Steele, who was the first two-time Alabama prep Mr. Basketball, received a degree in financial planning in December of 2007.

He joined Robert Scott as the only players in Tide history with 1,000 points and 400 assists.

Steele averaged 15.9 points in Southeastern Conference games as a sophomore and led the league in free throw percentage and minutes played, earning first-team All-SEC honors. He was limited for much of his junior season with knee problems.