BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s search for a point guard continues.
Sophomore Mikhail Torrance and freshman Rico Pickett are still vying to replace Ron Steele, who is sitting out the season after having offseason surgery on both knees.
"They’re going against each other every day," coach Mark Gottfried said Thursday at Southeastern Conference media days. "They know they’re being evaluated in every second of every drill in every practice.
"I think the competition makes players better. I think they both understand that we need both of them. It’s not a situation where one guy’s going to beat out the other and the other won’t play. They’re both going to play a lot. They may even play together at times."
Brandon Hollinger is also in the mix but is more of a shooting guard.
Steele had arthroscopic surgeries in April and a follow-up procedure on his left knee in August, repairing injuries that severely limited his production last season and often left the team unsure if he’d be able to play many minutes.
"Last year that probably affected our team more than anything," Gottfried said. Gottfried said Steele might have been able to work his way back by midseason, but wanted to have an entire healthy season.
"Hopefully he can get himself 100 percent healthy and then come back and have a great year next year," the coach said.
Georgia coach Dennis Felton can measure his program’s progress beyond just wins and losses.
The evidence is also found on the recruiting trail these days.
"We’re to the point now where we can be selective and not just desperate," Felton said. "For a couple of years, we were desperate for personnel. Now, we’re to the point where we can not only get players who can come in and make an impact and raise our level but also more people of character and enthusiasm and passion that we’re looking for in the guys that we sign."
The Bulldogs also return four starters from a team that won 19 games after going 8-20 three years ago. They made the NIT last season.
"I’m ecstatic about the progress we’ve made and about where we sit now, poised to make some real leaps in the next couple of years," Felton said. "This is easily our team that is the deepest in good SEC-quality talent and athleticism and size."
Dave Odom understands why South Carolina was picked to finish last in the SEC East.
The Gamecocks must replace leading scorer Tre’ Kelley and inside presence Brandon Wallace from a team that went 4-12 in league play, after all.
"I’m not surprised. I would be surprised otherwise," Odom said of the preseason projection. "That doesn’t mean I like it. I don’t like it. The truth of the matter is we lost more (key players) than anybody in the league other than Florida.
"We lost a lot of players from a team that finished last. I’m not surprised, but that does not mean we’ll finish there."