Analysis: Men’s basketball has a lot of questions to answer before the season

Jahvon+Quinerly+could+be+the+Tide%27s+saving+grace+when+it+comes+to+replacing+Kira+Lewis+Jr.

Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21

Jahvon Quinerly could be the Tide’s saving grace when it comes to replacing Kira Lewis Jr.

Alexander Plant | @aplant6, Sports Editor

After what some people saw as a disappointing season, here are three big questions heading into the 2020-2021 Alabama men’s basketball season.

(1) Will John Petty Jr. return for his senior season?

Rumors and speculation have circled around the star guard over the summer after he opted to declare for the draft March 25. Due to the rule changes about player eligibility for basketball in the last few years, Petty retains the right to return to Alabama for his senior year. Petty’s draft stock has not seen the increase he would have hoped for during his junior year. He is left off most mock draft big boards, which could heavily impact his decision. The NBA Draft has been postponed until October 16 this year, which will be a huge factor in Petty’s decision because he cannot wait that long for the draft. The NCAA set the deadline to retain eligibility for August 3.

Petty saw a large increase this year in points, assists and shooting percentage, but the most important thing that Petty added to his arsenal is rebounding. Petty led the team with 6.6 rebounds, most of which came on the defensive end. Many of these rebounds turned into fast-break points which showed on the stat sheet as Alabama had the third-ranked offense in Division I. If Petty does not return, his absence will leave a large hole for the team to fill on both the offensive and defensive end.

(2) Who will assume Kira Lewis Jr.’s role?

This will be the most important question for Alabama’s season this year. With the rise of star sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. on draft boards, it is highly unlikely that he will return to the team for the 2020-2021 season. Most draft big boards have him first round, which would mean a multi-million-dollar deal and a more than likely roster spot on an NBA team. Lewis was the key in Alabama’s offense, scoring a team high of 18.5 points while assisting 5.2 times per game. Closely contested games often fell onto Lewis’ shoulders in the final minutes as he and the big men on the floor would run through countless pick and roll plays. As the season progressed, the team’s reliance on Lewis was obvious once he became the closer in games versus the Georgia Bulldogs. Lewis led the team with 37 points and 7 assists and finished Georgia off with key free throws during overtime. Lewis departed from the team shortly after being named to the First Team All-SEC.

It’s hard to replace the kind of raw talent Lewis has. However, Alabama has the potential to do just that. Sophomore guard Jahvon Quinerly has remained a quiet but important name for Alabama’s season. Quinerly was ranked 26 on ESPN’s top 100 list for high school basketball players in 2018.

He may be the most skilled guard in the ESPN 100 and has an equally instinctive feel for the game,” the scouting report on Quinerly said. “There isn’t much he can’t do with the ball in his hands, and he’s exceptionally smooth and shifty while doing it.

After what most would call a disappointing start at Villanova, Quinerly transferred to Alabama in 2019 but was denied eligibility during the 2019-2020 season. Despite his lackluster season at Villanova, Quinerly brings a lot to the table and has the potential to fill the role of Lewis.

(3) Can Alabama cut down on turnovers?

This was the biggest issue for the team during last year’s season. Out of 350 teams, Alabama ranked 37 in most turnovers per game with an average of 14.9. These turnovers tended to happen after Alabama accumulated a large lead and got careless with the ball on offense. This pattern was extremely evident to both fans and the coaching staff during the team’s losses to Tennessee and Arkansas. The team had a combined 37 turnovers in those two games and blew leads of 15 and 12 points respectively. 

One of the main goals for this year will be to cut down on turnovers during fast breaks and half-court sets. Experienced leadership from senior forwards Herbert Jones and Alex Reese should allow the team to take better care of the basketball as well as turn those extra possessions into points.