No point guard in the Southeastern Conference has played better the last month than Alabama sophomore Trevor Releford
, who has increased his scoring output as the need has arisen.
Releford has led the Crimson Tide in scoring in four of its last six games, including a season-high 20 in a victory over LSU. In that span Releford is averaging 15.5 points on 38-of-56 shooting (.679) while handing out 18 assists and making 15 steals. Releford has made 33 of 41 of his two-point attempts (.802) and led the Tide in 3-point shooting (.333).
“I think his approach over the last several weeks with the way he has come prepared to practice and getting himself in the gym and understanding the opportunity like he has to lead this team has been a big reason for his success over the last several games,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant
said. “He has been a beneficiary of things that some of our guys have been able to create on defense as well.”
Releford’s run started with a 19-point effort against Oklahoma State. He followed that with 18 points against Jacksonville and a near-flawless performance against Georgia Tech when he made 8 of 8 shots from the field, grabbed four rebounds, handed out four assists and made two steals while committing just one turnover.
Given how well he’s played, it wasn’t surprising that when Releford was contained (3-of-8 shooting, seven points, four turnovers) against Mississippi State last Saturday, the Tide lost. He’s become that important to the cause.
Speaking of Alabama guards, the return of Andrew Steele
has been impressive to watch. After having been forced to give up the game a year ago because of health concerns, Steele rejoined the team just before SEC play began and became an instant contributor. He’s averaging 16.3 minutes, 6.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in four games.
Stokes makes impact in debut
: Tennessee fans didn’t have to wait long to see if midseason signee Jarnell Stokes
could contribute right away. Thirty-one seconds after taking the floor against Kentucky in his first college game last Saturday, the 6-8, 270-pound freshman from Memphis found himself guarded by the Wildcats’ 6-11 senior Eloy Vargas
. Taking time to size up his options, Stokes calmly tossed in a running jump hook.
“It gave me confidence when that shot went in,” Stokes said after the game. “Going in to this game, I was a little worried how I would do coming out of high school. But once that shot went in, I felt pretty good.”
Clearly, Stokes felt at home against Kentucky’s conglomeration of five-star recruits. A couple of minutes after his first basket, Stokes—who was rated a consensus top 20 recruit in the class of 2012—got the ball at the left elbow, pump-faked defender Terrence Jones
and let fly with a jump shot that found the bottom of the net.
Before the game, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin
gave Stokes the green light to score, and the big man took full advantage.
“I just told him, if there’s one guy [guarding him], shoot the ball,” Martin said. “If there’s two guys, a double team, pass the ball. If it’s one on one, make plays.”
Stokes logged 17 minutes against the Wildcats despite having practiced just four times since becoming eligible on Jan. 11 and got a lot out of his time on the floor: nine points, four rebounds and an assist. Stokes also committed three turnovers, but his debut was nonetheless impressive.
“He wasn’t intimidated at all,” Martin said. “It was fun to see him out there. It’s tough against that level of talent to be able to pick things up so quickly, the different schemes and not a lot of time to prepare. I thought he did a tremendous job.”
Yeguete makes most of start
: With Florida’s starting post man Patric Young
nursing an injured ankle, sophomore Will Yeguete
had to take his place in the starting lineup at South Carolina and he responded with a Young-like performance: 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting and a team-high eight rebounds.
Given that the Gators won their first road game of the season after four losses, might that change become permanent? Not a chance, but Yeguete will continue to have a role as he continues his impressive ascent.
As a freshman, the 6-7, 222-pound Yeguete averaged 1.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. This season he’s averaging 5.2 points and 6.4 boards, second on the team to Young’s 6.9, and is shooting .597 (40 of 67) from the field.
Yeguete’s pinch-hit performance for Young wasn’t the first time he’s started this season. He logged five other starts in relief of an injury Erik Murphy
Wade hot from the arc
: His freshman teammate B.J. Young
is getting most of the attention this year, at least from the media, but 6-2 sophomore Mardracus Wade
is getting plenty of attention from opposing coaches as they have to account for his newfound 3-point shooting ability.
Wade leads the SEC in that department (.493, 36 of 73), after shooting just .205 from behind the arc a year ago. As a freshman, Wade averaged 4.0 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists; this season he’s increased those numbers to 11.0, 2.3 and 1.6.
Known as a rugged and willing perimeter defender before he arrived at Arkansas, Wade has added 3-point marksman to his list of duties as he’s helped the Hogs replace the production lost when junior forward Marshawn Powell
’s season was ended with a knee injury