State teams not keeping basketball talent at home

Published 5:15 pm Thursday, March 19, 2009

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is underway, but for the second straight year, no team from Alabama is in it. I know many of you will say Alabama State made the tournament. Yes they did earn an automatic bid to the tournament, but they lost in the “play-in game.” Thus, they aren’t in the final 64.

Many will say that basketball can’t compete with football in this state, but I disagree. The reason why teams like Alabama, Auburn and UAB don’t make the tournament each year is they aren’t protecting home court, meaning they are letting too many good basketball players get out of the state.

While all three of those teams are spectators to the big dance, not all basketball players from this state are watching from the sidelines. Four players from here are hoping to create some March Madness.

They are Stanley Robinson from UConn, DeMarre Carroll from Missouri, Ronald Nored from Butler and Louis Dale of Cornell. Nored and Dale weren’t highly touted coming out of high school from Homewood and Altamont, respectively, but everyone knew about Robinson and Carroll from Parker and John Carroll.

Just think what this state’s basketball would be like if Alabama, Auburn or UAB would have signed any of them.

This problem of letting great in-state talent get away isn’t a new one, and it isn’t one that’s going away anytime soon. UAB let DeMarcus Cousins of LeFlore High School get away, and he went to the Blazers’ biggest rival, Memphis. How could UAB let him slide away? Alabama does have more basketball talent that you might realize.

A good of example of how you can win with in-state players is the Auburn women’s basketball team. Coach Nell Fortner in her first season recruited this year’s senior class. Alabama did have an exceptionally good year for talent, and she got the state’s top player, DeWanna Bonner, from Fairfield High School.

Now, the Tigers are a No. 2 seed in the Women’s Tournament and a top contender for a national championship.

What Auburn coach Jeff Lebo, UAB coach Mike Davis and the new Alabama coach need to do is to keep our state talent here. That was something former coaches Wimp Sanderson and Sonny Smith did, and both teams made the tournament a lot in the 1980s.

If our best players always get out of the state, then we might as well cancel the basketball program and just worry about football recruiting. In a way, that’s the way it is already.