Alabama’s lone scholarship senior, Andrew Steele, will be honored for his contributions to Alabama basketball before the final home game of the season against Georgia. (AP photo)
Here is a print story contributed to the Saturday edition of the Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.) featuring Andrew Steele’s upcoming Senior Day, Saturday at 3 p.m. against Georgia.
Few players embody the “mind over matter” mentality more than Alabama fifth-year senior guard Andrew Steele.
Steele’s list of injuries throughout his career with the Crimson Tide is long enough to take over nearly his entire body, going from the ankle injury that hobbles him now, to the sports hernia that sidelined him for six weeks earlier this season, to the concussions that nearly kept him from playing basketball after his sophomore season.
Now his Alabama basketball career is coming to a close as he limps his way into Tide history with his final regular-season home game today. Alabama (19-11, 11-6 SEC) will host Georgia (15-15, 9-8) at 3 p.m., and the school will honor Steele before the game as the team’s lone senior.
“My mom graduated from here, so ever since I can remember I’ve always been an Alabama fan,” Steele said. “When my brother (Ronald Steele, a 2006 first-team All-SEC selection) came here, some of the success he was having was exciting as a fan alone, but the fact that he was in my family made all the more exciting.
“And not just basketball. I get really excited when I see other sports doing well. Me being a graduate of the university, it’s really exciting.”
In June 2011, it appeared Steele’s career would end before his eligibility did. He announced that lingering symptoms from multiple concussions had forced him to give up basketball.
Doctors eventually cleared him to return to the team, but during those months when he wasn’t playing, Alabama head coach Anthony Grant allowed him to work as a student assistant coach. That has led to Steele’s decision on his career after his finishes at Alabama.
“Coach Grant let me work with the team still, and those few months really reinstalled that (coaching) is what I want to do,” Steele said. “It made me appreciate it more when I came back because I had to go through having it taken away from me. You almost kind of take it for granted until it’s gone.”
Steele said he hopes to coach in the collegiate ranks but understands “there’s a process involved, whether it’s being a grad assistant or coaching in high school. It’s something I’m really passionate about.”
He also is passionate about playing. In fact, he has played his senior season with pain from an ankle issue, which required surgery last summer.
“When I had the surgery in August, the doctor probably could have done more, but it would have set me back longer,” Steele said. “My whole thing was to do as much as he can to fix the problem but miss the least amount of time. That’s what he did, and there was always a risk that it could come back up, but we didn’t think it would come back up so quick and it would be so painful.”
The pain is so intense Steele walks in a protective boot whenever he is not on the court. Even with the pain, he still is eager to play.
“It’s one of those things where I understand there’s going to be pain whether I’m playing or not, so I might as well give my all and to do everything I can to help if there’s going to be pain regardless,” Steele said.
Recklessness may be the word to describe Steele’s demeanor toward his body on the court. But it hasn’t come without resistance from Grant, who tried to save him once.
“He and I have talked many times, and I sat down and told him, ‘Listen, Andrew, you don’t have to play. Don’t feel an obligation to myself or your teammates or anything like that. You’ve paid your dues,’” Grant said.
Nevermind that, Steele suggested. He is not only an active member of the 2012-2013 team, but potentially a beloved member of the program’s history, which has reached 100 years.
“Hopefully, I’ll be remembered as somebody who left it all out there whenever I played and affected a lot of winning. I tried to be my best to lead my teammates and tried to represent the University well,” Steele said.
“These last five years have probably been the best five years of my life.”