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October 21, 2010HOOVER _ University of Alabama junior power forward JaMychal Green has already seen enough of one new teammate to know that he's going to make an immediate impact.
"Yeah, Trevor Releford," Green said. "Once he gets a better feel for it, I think he's going to be a great player."
The freshman was a four-star player out of Bishop Miege, Kan., and rated the 10th-overall point guard in the nation.
"He's going a very good job," Coach Anthony Grant said at SEC Media Day at the Wynfrey Hotel. "I'm really impressed with his work-ethic. He's got a great presence and maturity about him for a freshman. He's been able to handle everything that's been thrown at him."
His biggest adjustment, in addition to the collegiate lifestyle, may be Alabama's up-tempo game as Releford played a different style in high school. So far he seems to be adjusting well.
"We talked during the recruiting process about the ability to play fast," Grant said. "He didn't understand fast. But I think he's getting it.
The Crimson Tide's most improved player may be 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Tony Mitchell.
"Tony was one of the guys selected to the all-freshman team in our conference, and if you look at the quality of freshman we had in the league last year that's a pretty big honor," Grant said "I think Tony is a guy who affects the game in a lot of different ways. I think he's definitely going to benefit from the experience he got last year."
Mitchell averaged 9.2 point and 5.9 rebounds as a freshman, but endured numerous bumps and bruises while playing near 185 pounds and also went through a bout with mononucleosis. After hitting the weight room during the offseason he's now at 210, and has also been working hard on his jump shot.
"I think he's playing with a different level of confidence and understanding," Grant said.
Women's team on rise
The Alabama women's basketball team believes it's turned a corner and was picked ninth in the recent preseason media poll.
"Preseason picks don't really mean anything, Kentucky was picked 11th last year in the conference and looked where they ended up," Coach Wendell Hudson said. "But I do think it's good to not be picked 12th for I don't know how many years in a row. That's exciting that maybe people are realizing than maybe Alabama is recruiting the right kind of players and can be competitive in the SEC.
"Defensively, I think we're going to be tougher. We're going to get after people in a different way than we have in the past. We think we have the personnel to be competitive now and make it a four-court basketball game."
In addition to returning four starters, the Crimson Tide added six players thanks to a high-profile recruiting class. The increased competition for playing time has resulted into more intense practices and even caused a few skirmishes.
"Families fight too," senior forward Tierney Jenkins said.
Foster delays continue
The $16.5 million renovation of Foster Renovation won't be completed in time for the start of the women's basketball season as hoped. But Hudson is looking forward to playing in the intimate venue (3,000-plus) when it is finished.
"I hope every team coming in to play hates Foster Auditorium because of that setting," Hudson said. "It's going to be a state-of-the-art facility."
Grant has been practicing freshman center Carl Engstrom against Green, both to have Green work against a 7-foot-1 player but accelerate the Swede's learning curve.
Jenkins puts up photos of opponents on her mirror at home to inspire her, but it was just one person this past summer. "If I tell you which school you'll know exactly who it is," she said.
Freshman forward Kaneisha Horn, who was one of the top recruits in the nation, is already turning heads. "She's can score, she's tough, mentally tough, physically tough, she can finish well and is a really good player," Jenkins said. "She could be the SEC Freshman Player of the Year. I think she'll make an immediate impact."
Sophomore guard Celiscia Farmer is still recovering from two offseason surgical procedures, for a sports hernia and her hip.
Teammates say that redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Steele, who missed all but six games last season due to a stress fracture in his ankle, is moving well during practices. The roster lists him at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds.
Hudson likes what he sees from Jenkins so far during practices, which is very different from what he's said in the past. "She's been as good as we hoped she would be. She's a senior. She's taken some ownership in the basketball program."
The women's team has gone from zero true point guards when Hudson took over to two with the addition of freshman Khristen Lee. She's backing up senior LaToya King, a junior-college last year.
Senior guard Senario Hillman last week on Grant: "He's all about winning and he wants everyone on the team to be successful. That's what I like about him. Everyone has to work hard for their spots."