Johnson and players discuss Hall's development and why the Crimson Tide deserves a bid to the NCAA Tournament

Tyler Waldrep

When Donta Hall arrived at Alabama, he struggled to hold his own in practices. Back in June, coach Avery Johnson wasn’t sure Hall would even see the court much, but this team has exceeded a lot of expectations this season.

“We were going to basically try to treat this year like a glorified redshirt year by sprinkling in minutes,” Johnson said. “I didn’t expect him to be at 22 minutes and get five blocks at the end of SEC play.”

The freshman from Luverne, Alabama, isn’t just seeing the court, he’s taking minutes away from co-captain Jimmie Taylor. Hall spent 16 minutes out on the court Saturday against Auburn and played 21 minutes against the Razorbacks on Wednesday. Taylor, meanwhile, played both games for a combined total of 22 minutes.

“I think he’s just scratching the surface right now,” Michael Kessens said. “He’s going to become a great player here at UA over four years.”

Kessens said watching Hall block an opponent or get a dunk hypes the team up, but that excitement also extends to the fans in Coleman Coliseum.

“I honestly feel like that is more of my role [to provide a spark],” Hall said. “I try to bring a lot of energy to our team.”

Energy might be just what Alabama (17-12, 8-9 SEC) needs on the road this weekend when facing Georgia (16-12, 9-8 SEC). The Crimson Tide finds itself either just missing the NCAA Tournament or just making it in, according to most current projections.

“We’ve done pretty much everything in our conference schedule without our starting point guard,” Johnson said. “I think our resume, if we can finish up the regular season and win a couple in the conference tournament, I think it should speak for itself.”

ESPN currently has Alabama listed with a 61 RPI and the 33rd most difficult schedule played to date. The Crimson Tide is also one of only 15 teams in the country to have beaten four AP Top 25 teams this season, although Wichita State was dealing with injuries when the teams met.

Saturday is Georgia’s senior night. After losing their own senior night on Wednesday, Alabama knows exactly how much those games mean to teams. Johnson said he would like to see his team play faster and be more aggressive behind the arc than it has been of late.

A win would give Alabama a .500 finish in conference play for the first time since the 2012-13 season. A loss could be the nail in the coffin of any NCAA Tournament dreams.

“[Losing to Arkansas was a] big loss I think at this point of the season, but we still control our own destiny,” Kessens said. “We’ve proven what we can do. We’ve proven we can beat good teams on the road, neutral site, at home, ranked teams, so I think we’ve proven that we can compete.”