Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/9/11

I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s returning contributors from last season. Now, I’ll shift my focus to the newcomers for the Crimson Tide. Alabama’s 2011 recruiting class was ranked 5th by rivals.com highlighted by 5-star recruit Trevor Lacey.

This recruiting class is one of the most hyped and anticipated in Alabama basketball history, and many of these guys will be significant contributors for the Tide this season as they look to help Alabama get back into the Dance.

Anthony Grant signed a six-man recruiting class for 2011, but one of them has been lost for the season. JUCO transfer Moussa Gueye tore his ACL during the offseason, and will miss the 2011-12 basketball season. Gueye was expected to add a presence in the paint, and add much needed depth to the frontcourt.

Even with Gueye being lost for the season, Alabama has a lot of talented freshman who are looking for early playing time.

Lacey highlights a talented group of freshman for the Crimson Tide.

Trevor Lacey (G/Huntsville, AL)

Lacey is one of the most ballyhooed recruit in the history of Alabama basketball. The Crimson Tide won the services of the 5-star recruit over the likes of Kentucky and Kansas, which is no easy feat. Lacey had knee surgery during the offseason, and he was noticeably a step slow during Monday night’s exhibition.

It will be interesting to see how that affects his minutes early on, and while he may not start right away, look for Lacey to end up in the backcourt alongside Trevor Releford before long. We saw his immense potential on display during the scrimmage. He is a superb athlete, and he got to the rim multiple times, but had a little trouble finishing.

Lacey’s ability to score from the perimeter will be a welcome addition to the 2011-12 Tide, as they struggled mightily last season to score from outside the paint. It will take a little bit of time for Lacey to adjust to the college game, but a lot is expected from him now and in the future in Tuscaloosa.

Levi Randolph (G/Madison, AL)

Levi Randolph was one of two freshman to start in Monday night’s exhibition, and don’t be surprised if he gets the nod in the backcourt for the time being over Lacey. He doesn’t have a great offensive game yet, but Anthony Grant has praised his defense, and that is the quickest way to early minutes under Grant.

Randolph was a four-star recruit according to rivals out of Bob Jones high school. He should see a lot of minutes right away because of his ability as an on-ball defender, but his offensive game will need to progress further if he wants to continue seeing the floor.

Rodney Cooper (G/Phenix City, AL)

The most pleasant surprise from Monday night’s exhibition was the play of Rodney Cooper. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t know what to think of Cooper coming in, but it is obvious that he will see plenty of minutes early on. Cooper was the other freshman in the starting lineup during the exhibition against Alabama-Huntsville, and expect him to remain there.

Cooper showed a sweet shooting stroke from the outside, but he doesn’t look to be just a three-point specialist. Cooper always displayed strong defense, and his best play of the night was coming from behind a play to block what appeared to be an easy layup for UAH.

Alabama really struggled from beyond-the-ark last season, but Cooper looks to improve that. He should have a Charvez Davis-type role on this team. Let’s hope he doesn’t fall into a slump like Davis did last season, though.

Anthony Grant signed a top-five recruiting class, and has optimism soaring in Tuscaloosa.

Nick Jacobs (F/Atlanta, GA)

Nick Jacobs is another four-star prospect out of South Atlanta high school. Jacobs has the size (6’8” 250) to play as a freshman in the SEC, but he still needs time to develop. Unfortunately, Alabama doesn’t have enough depth with Moussa Gueye’s injury to let Jacobs sit on the bench and develop.

Jacobs will be called upon right away to come off the bench and contribute. He, along with Carl Engstrom, are the only real post players Alabama has to bring off the bench. Engstrom hasn’t progressed like Grant would like, and still has problems with foul trouble. That will lead to a lot of early playing time from Jacobs.

He doesn’t have a strong offensive game to this point, but all he will be asked to do when he is on the floor is to play defense and rebound. He showed that ability during the exhibition.

Retin Obasohan (G/Belgium)

I know little about Obasohan other than clips I’ve seen from him playing overseas, and what I saw in the little time he played against Alabama-Huntsville on Monday. But, from what I have seen, Obasohan is a tremendous athlete for his size, and he appears to be a pretty solid on-ball defender.

Obviously he doesn’t have a polished offensive game, and it will take some time for him to adjust to the American game, but he is very quick. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Obasohan pushed Ben Eblen for the backup point guard spot behind Trevor Releford. But, we also saw Trevor Lacey play the point some when Releford was on the bench.

All five of these freshmen are going to contribute in some way this season, some more so than others. Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper will all seriously challenge for the two available starting spots this season alongside Releford, Tony Mitchell, and JaMychal Green.

Look for Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper to occupy those roles at the start of the season, but look for Trevor Lacey to likely take over in the backcourt with Releford at some point this year. For better or worse, these freshmen will play big roles on the 2011-12 Crimson Tide basketball team, and will likely determine if this team is able to seriously compete with the big boys, and not only make the NCAA Tournament, but win a game or two.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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