Alabama men’s basketball has already made a few modifications since Avery Johnson was hired as head coach back in April.

It made another Thursday evening.

Johnson, the former NBA coach who has already created a significant buzz about the program this offseason, permitted the local media to watch the team’s final hour of practice.

While nothing is set in stone yet, it appears this sort of access will become more commonplace under the rookie college coach. Reporters were unable to watch any portion of practice under former coach Anthony Grant’s tenure.

“Our guys have been working hard, morning, noon and night,” Johnson said. “We got started with our first practice back on Oct. (2) at six o'clock in the morning, and everybody was just full of energy, they've been very coachable, they've bought in to what we're doing, what we're trying to accomplish on both ends of the floor because it's very important for us to be a balanced team this year.

“But the energy and enthusiasm has far greater exceeded my expectations. In terms of execution, we still have a ways to go, that's to be expected. But it's not because there's any confusion or gray area on what we're trying to accomplish.”

The Crimson Tide plays Kennesaw State at home in its season opener on Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. It will also host Trevecca Nazarene in its lone scrimmage a week earlier on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, the team will host a joint Tide Tipoff with the women’s basketball team at Coleman Coliseum. Hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd will perform at the conclusion of the team’s on-court activities.


- Alabama will play fast this year. While the NCAA shortened the shot clock to 30 seconds from 35 seconds this offseason, Johnson had the team practicing with a 20-second shot clock throughout the media’s hour-long viewing period.

Johnson first revealed that the team would play at that pace on Tide 99.1’s “Inside the Locker Room with Wimp and Barry,” which is hosted by legendary Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson and his son, Barry Sanderson, a former SEC and ACC assistant basketball coach.

- Returning junior forwards Michael Kessens and Shannon Hale were both limited during practice due to lingering injuries from last season.

Kessens, who transferred to Alabama from Longwood in 2013, had a knee injury near the end of last season, though Johnson did not disclose that as the reason for his inability to play at full speed. He did, however, practice in both the half-court portion and full-court 5-on-5 scrimmage of practice.

“Mike Kessens pretty much couldn’t do much of anything the entire summer,” Johnson said. “But he’s slowly rounding into shape. We hope to have him by the time the season starts, or somewhere after the first (game) of the season in the best shape he’s ever been in his life. We are heading in that direction, because we need him to be a big part of what we’re doing.

“So, we’ve broken his body down physically, and now we’re putting it back together. He’s come a long ways from when I first took the job.”

Hale was shut down for the remainder of the 2014-15 season in early March due to a Jones fracture in his foot, which has a recovery timetable of six to eight weeks. At that point, only a few games remained for Alabama.

Hale participated in the half-court drills at the beginning of practice, before sitting out of the team’s full-court 5-on-5 scrimmage.

“Shannon, obviously, was a little bit slower to come along,” Johnson said. “Today was the first day that he was able to get through some of the half-court portions of practice. So, he participated in practice, but only in the half-court portion of it.

“But he’s gotten stronger. His weight was down early in the season, now we’ve gotten his weight up to an area where I think I like to see him play at. Both of those guys, they’re still coming. We hope by the time we play our scrimmage, that those guys will be 100 percent ready to go.”

- Graduate transfer Arthur Edwards, a senior guard who last played at New Mexico, did not practice at all due to an illness. He is immediately eligible to play this season.

- Another transfer, junior guard/forward Nick King, a Memphis native who played at Memphis, showed that he will be a big addition to the roster, though he can’t play this season because of the NCAA’s transfer rule. He has a nice stroke.

- Alabama was broken up into two teams – Crimson and White – at least for the entirety of the media period:

Crimson team: Jimmie Taylor, Avery Johnson Jr., Dazon Ingram, Brandon Austin, Nick King, Retin Obasohan and Shannon Hale.

White team: Justin Coleman, Riley Norris, Michael Kessens, Donta Hall and walk-ons Lawson Schaffer and Christian Clark.

- Lawson Schaffer, a freshman from Cullman who was the Class 6A Player of the Year last season, has a solid jump shot. He averaged 21.4 points, 7.8 assists, 7.1 rebounds and 3.4 steals last season as a senior at Cullman.

- Johnson said after practice that leaders emerging on the team include mainly the guards – Retin Obasohan, Justin Coleman and Dazon Ingram. He also mentioned Jimmie Taylor, who he said has broken out of his quiet role of years past.

- During stoppages in practice, Johnson stressed that the team feed the ball more to Taylor when in the low post, so it looks like he will play a more prominent role in the offense this season. The junior also did well at the foul line, making 3-of-4 attempts during the scrimmage.

- Assistant coach Bob Simon was not spotted during the media’s viewing period. He was likely out recruiting. The rest of the coaching staff was present.

Watch several videos of Thursday’s practice to make your own judgments: