October 26, 2012 11:36:53 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Don't call Wendell Hudson surprised.
Incredulous would be a better term. The University of Alabama women's basketball coach couldn't think of any other way to react earlier this week when he learned his team had been picked to finish 14th in the expanded Southeastern Conference.
"If you look at where we are last year and judged everything we had coming back without those players who were sitting out, you're not keeping up with women's basketball," Hudson said. "If you don't know about Kaneisha Horn and Daisha (Simmons) and Bre (Briana Hutchen) and all of these other people coming in, It tells me that sometimes people are not keeping up with women's basketball."
Hudson was quick to insert Alicia Mitcham into that mix. Mitcham, a 6-foot-2 senior, sat out last season. She averaged 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 29 games in 2010-11.
Hudson's hope is the return of Horn, a 6-1 redshirt sophomore forward, and Mitcham along with the addition of Simmons, a 5-10 sophomore, and Hutchen, a 6-1 sophomore, who transferred from Rutgers University, and Brittany Jack, a 6-0 sophomore transfer from Samford University, will help Alabama get back to where it was in 2010-11. After going 13-17 and 12-18 in his first two seasons, Hudson led the Crimson Tide to an 18-15 finish and the third round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
Last season, though, injuries played a big part in Alabama's slide to 12-19 and 2-14 in the SEC. Junior Jasmine Robinson, a 5-7 guard, was the only player to average double figures (11.4 ppg.) last season. Horn, the program's first McDonald's All-American, suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury.
This season, Hudson feels the Crimson Tide will reverse their fortunes. New assistant coaches Clarisse Garcia (head coach at Palm Beach Atlantic in Florida), Tim Miller (girls basketball coach at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala.), and Donnie Quinn (girls basketball coach at Hoover High in Hoover, Ala.) will help revitalize the program.
"All of those people can play," Hudson said. "They are SEC-type players.
"If you can coach, you can coach. I don't care what level you are. We get the results of how good high school coaching is in college. If you can get them to that point and teach them to play, why couldn't you coach them in college?"
Hudson didn't know how to explain why his program was picked 14th. He said he looked at it and told his players about it and plans to use it as motivation throughout the season.
"You have to earn the right, and I think we will earn the right, to be different than that," Hudson said. "That is going to be up on the bulletin board every day."
Hudson said he has tried to be fair building a program. He declined to come in in 2008 and clean house and preferred to build the program back through recruiting. He feels he and his coaches are working hard to treat people well, to do things the right way, and to add more "face cards" to his hand. Even though some of the players on this year's team are transfers, he feels this group is the best reflection of him as a coach and best represents the type of players he wants to have in the program. With four commitments for the class of 2013-14, Hudson knows the future is bright. Now he wants to make sure the present will be equally impressive.
"Every year up until last year Alabama made progress," Hudson said. "We were right at the verge of doing what we needed to do. Injuries and some other things happened. We now have all of these people healthy. We have played hard and we have been competitive from a playing hard standpoint in the SEC and have moved up. Last year, you can't do anything about injuries. What we have now is 14 players who are healthy right now and who are quality players."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.