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[b]Gottfried more concerned about UA than opponent

By Cecil Hurt
Sports Editor
Tuscaloosa News
December 01, 2004

TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama head basketball coach Mark Gottfried is entirely unconcerned that a fomer UAB head coach will be sitting on the opposing bench tonight.

He’s more concerned with his own bench.

The Crimson Tide, coming off a trip to the Great Alaska Shootout in which bench production was a definite concern, will be back home tonight at 7, hosting the East Tennessee State Pirates (2-2) at Coleman Coliseum. Former UAB head coach Murry Bartow, who went 27-4 in his first season at ETSU last year, will face Alabama as a head coach for the first time, but there won’t be any lingering rivalry on Gottfried’s part.

“The game was scheduled because we try to play teams who are likely to win their conference championships and East Tennessee State is one of those teams," Gottfried said. “Darrin Boatright [Alabama’s director of basketball operations] handles that part of our scheduling. He just came to me at some point and said 'Do you want to play East Tennessee?’ and I said 'Let’s do it.’"

The Pirates return three perimeter players, including leading scorer Tim Smith, from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but Gottfried is still most concerned with the early-season fine-tuning of his own squad.

“We went to Alaska to win [the tournament] and it’s a disappointment that we didn’t," Gottfried said. “We can get a lot better. Our bench needs to improve a lot."

In the Tide’s two Division I games in Alaska, against Washington and Minnesota, the bench contributed just 18 points.

“I thought Al Weber did a nice job, although he’s not a natural point guard," Gottfried said. “But some of our other players have struggled."

That problem was compounded by an off-week from forward Kennedy Winston, who averaged just 12 points per game in Alaska.

“Ken struggled up there," Gottfried says. “He knows that. As Ken struggled, Earnest Shelton’s (scoring) became very important to us. Then, when he got in foul trouble against Washington, we were basically relying on Chuck (Davis.) We don’t need to rely on just one person to score. Ron Steele and Jermareo (Davidson) can score. They need to help out, and so does our bench."

Steele will also have his hands full tonight with ETSU’s speedy point guard, Tim Smith. The 5-foot-9 Smith averaged 19 points per game and scored 35 against Marshall earlier this season.

“Tim Smith is the heart and soul of their team," Gottfried said. “He handles the ball. Their offense goes through him. Ron played against some good guards in Alaska, but Smith will be just as good."[/b]