- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
The University of Alabama waited until after the signing period to nab its first basketball commitment for 2012, but ESPN 150 star Devonta Pollard was worth the wait for the Crimson Tide.
In 2013, head coach Anthony Grant and the UA coaching staff are off to a much quicker start with two early commitments, both ranked in the ESPN 100. The class comes in at No. 8 in the debut of ESPN’s team recruiting rankings, and it has a chance to finish even higher than that.
It’s not every year that a top-50 player is from your own backyard, but that was the case for Alabama for 2013.
Jimmie Taylor (6-foot-10, 210 pounds) not only grew up 45 minutes from Tuscaloosa, but he’s also the cousin of former Tide star Erwin Dudley. However, he was no lock to Alabama especially when the big schools started calling.
Taylor had offers from Georgetown, Louisville, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and he also had interest from Kentucky, but in the end, Alabama’s persistence paid off as he committed to the Tide in April. Ultimately, it was the right fit.
“With Alabama, I enjoy the coaching staff,” said Taylor, who is No. 48 overall in the ESPN 100, and the No. 4 center in the nation. "I like them a lot. Their style of play fits me and it’s close to home, so I figured I could benefit from going to Alabama.”
Alabama can benefit from Taylor’s game as well. He brings much-needed size to the program, and he’s athletic enough to get up and down the floor and play the up-tempo style of game that Grant likes to run.
He can come in and make an immediate impact on the defensive end, blocking shots, while his offensive game continues to evolve.
The Tide’s other 2013 commitment, forward Shannon Hale, jumped on board almost a year and a half ago when he chose the Tide in Oct., 2010. When he made his decision, schools like North Carolina and Tennessee were just beginning to show interest. Hale is ranked No. 100 in the ESPN 100 and is the No. 26 power forward in the country.
At 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, Hale doesn’t have a defined position on the court. He can play multiple spots which is one reason why the coaching staff likes him so much. He has a solid midrange game and takes pride in his rebounding ability on both ends of the floor.
Before his junior season, Hale transferred to Christ School in North Carolina, the same school the three Plumlee brothers attended. He’s playing for the St. Louis Eagles this summer on the AAU circuit.
Alabama also had a commitment from Jaren Sina (No. 75 in the ESPN 100) in this class before the New Jersey point guard opted to reopen his recruitment last October. Sina still has the Tide among his top schools.