Alabama head coach Anthony Grant did not balk at the opportunity to talk about his relationship with South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, who Grant says he has a relationship with, “that goes deeper than basketball.”
“We went to high school together, coached together and we’re obviously aware of the challenges they’ve had of late,” Grant said. “But really impressed with their team and the way they play, with the intensity they play and they way they defend.”
In recent history, it has been Martin that has come away from head-to-head battles with bragging rights. Last season, when Martin was at the helm for the Kansas State Wildcats, Alabama traveled to Kansas City and was handed a 71-58 loss. The Wildcats were 22-for-33 from the free throw line against Alabama and outrebounded the Tide 38-30.
Grant sees a similar monster to tame in Martin’s Gamecocks.
“He’s got a different team, but I think the identity is the same,” he said. “They’re hard-nosed, tough team. They have the same identity in terms of the way they come at you. I think his teams at Kansas State were great offensive rebounding teams. His team now, in his first year, is a good offensive rebounding team.
“Defensively, they make it tough to run your action. That was the identity at Kansas State and that’s the identity he’s brought there. I think our guys have to understand they fight they’re going to bring to the game and I think we have to match and surpass that.”
Alabama also has to defend guard Bruce Ellington, who is averaging almost 10 points per game in South Carolina’s last six contests.
“The biggest thing is his competitiveness,” Grant said. “He’s a junior, he’s been through this league before. He’s a guy that ignites them from an offensive standpoint with his speed, ability to shoot the basketball.”