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October 22, 2014

Alabama basketball Grant hopes 'perceived' talent lives up to hype for Tide

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Posted: Monday, June 30, 2014 8:57 pm | Updated: 12:17 am, Wed Jul 2, 2014.

When it comes to the talent on his roster for next season, the key word for Alabama men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant is “perceived.”

At first glance, the Crimson Tide’s roster appears to be an upgrade compared to last season’s team that limped to a 13-19 record, including 7-11 in the Southeastern Conference. But Grant knows a game never has been won on paper.

So during Monday’s SEC basketball summer teleconference with reporters, Grant expressed how “excited” he was about this team’s potential, but also tried to temper expectations.

“I’m really excited about what these guys bring,” Grant said. “I’m excited about it, but there’s a process that you have to go through, a commitment that you have to have on a day-to-day basis to continue to improve and do the things necessary to compete at the level we need to compete.”

This coming season, Alabama will have six returning players (five former signees and former walk-on Dakota Slaughter) along with seven newcomers. Four of the new faces are signees from Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class, which ranked as the fourth best in the SEC according to 247Sports composite ranking. There are also three transfers.

Of those transfers, guard Christophe Varidel may be the most notable. Varidel, who played three seasons at Florida Gulf Coast before spending this past year at Chaminade in Hawaii, is a sharp shooting specialist.

Last year at Chaminade, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard averaged 21.2 points and 4.6 rebounds through five games before being sidelined with a knee injury. Grant said Varidel is in the “process of trying to get himself fully healthy.”

Joining Varidel are guard Ricky Tarrant (Tulane) and forward Michael Kessens (Longwood University). Both sat out last season, but were able to practice with the team. Grant said having a guard such as Tarrant makes the transition from the Trevor Releford era a little smoother.

“It’s always good when you can add a player like Ricky that’s got great experience and has had a good amount of success in two outstanding seasons at Tulane,” Grant said. “I felt like he really got better over the course of his two years there. He was really able to take advantage of last year and being able to practice against an all-conference player in Trevor Releford everyday, being able to get in the weight room and improve his strength and conditioning and some other things he needed to do. I’m excited about adding a veteran like him.”

Depth and lack of a consistent playmaker outside of Releford plagued the Tide last season. But the seven additions coupled with the returning players may help change Alabama’s basketball fortunes. Grant said the newcomers make the Tide “obviously deeper” and “more skilled.”

“I think we have a good blend of veteran experience and a good level of talent coming into our program,” Grant said. “So we’re looking forward to the preparation that goes into getting ready for next season and taking advantage of this time that we have in the summer to get better.”

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