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Alabama Basketball looks to the future as two returners decide to exit the program

LSUBBall_UA_0040The Alabama men’s basketball team closed out the 2014 season with a loss to LSU in the second round of the SEC tournament on March 13 giving the Crimson Tide a 13-19 (7-11 SEC) record.  It has been a few weeks for the Anthony Grant and the players to reflect on their recent season as well as look to the future for the program. While at the annual basketball banquet Tuesday night Grant spoke to a crowd of boosters and players regarding Alabama’s first losing season in 14 years.  “In no way am I discouraged in any way,” Grant said. “I’m excited about the guys that we have returning to our team. I’m excited about the new pieces that we’re going to add to our team. I’m excited about the prospects as we move forward into the future.”

With the details of the 2014-2015 season still being worked out it’s expected that the schedule may be more difficult than the previous. The difficultly edged up a bit more on Wednesday as two big contributors from last season announced that they would not be returning to the team next season – Engstrom and Key.  LSUBBall_UA_0039

On Tuesday the 7-1 Swedish center Carl Engstom announced that he would not be returning for his final season of eligibility at Alabama. “After talking with coach Grant and my family, I decided it was in my best interest to move on,” Engstrom said.   Anthony Grant honored the red-shirt junior on Tuesday evening with the Student-Athlete Award “This young man came to us four years ago being pretty brand new to the game of basketball, but not brand new to a work ethic and an understanding of the opportunity that he had, the work he would put in, and the way he wanted to go about doing it.” Grand said.

Engstrom played in 84 games over his four years at the Capstone.  He played in 31 of the team’s 32 games with 10 starts and finished the season averaging 1.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 11.8 minutes per game.  The Ystad, Sweden native is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in general health studies and 3.5 GPA.  Currently he plans to pursue options in the European basketball league but has not decided on anything definite.  “It’s always a tough decision to go another place and do what I’m going to do, and I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet, but I’m very thankful for my time here and I say thanks to all the fans, coaches and teammates,” Engstrom said.

LSUBBall_UA_0007On Wednesday JUCO transfer Algie Key decided that he too would not be returning for his final season at Alabama.  Key was a two-time Junior College All-American at Barton Community College in Kansas before transferring to Alabama.  He started in seven games this season averaging 3.7 points and 15.4 minutes per game.  The guard originally from Decatur, GA saw more playing time earlier in the season and more sporadic as the season went on.  Towards the end of the season Key started to see more playing time but apparently it still wasn’t enough for the would be senior. “With Algie, (he) wanted more of an opportunity to play more consistent minutes and play a bigger role,” Grant said. “With these guys, you get one opportunity to be a student athlete and enjoy having a success on the court. So I can fully understand wanting a bigger opportunity and we certainly wish him the best of luck.”

The future of Alabama basketball is still a big question mark for several but for Grant he is confident that the future is bright for the Crimson Tide.  “As a coach, my vision, my belief in this program and our players and the direction we’re headed in no way shape or form has wavered” Grant said.  With two less experienced players on the roster than expected the road may have just gotten a little rougher.  However, Alabama does have two very promising forward freshman in Shannon Hale, who underwent foot surgery today to repair a broken bone, and Jimmy Taylor that are both expected to play significant roles in the upcoming season along-side Obasohan and Randolph.

UFBBall_UA036“Our promised land is playing for championships, whether it be in the regular season or the postseason,” Grant said.  ”As a program, we’re not where we want to be … yet.”

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