Steele slowly making progress
TUSCALOOSA -- Point guard Ronald Steele didn't sweat much on Sunday during Alabama's first basketball practice since last season.
As Alabama coach Mark Gottfried insisted, "He didn't do anything."
It will be this way for a while longer. Ronald Steele is still hurting, and how his knees eventually respond to offseason surgery will have much to say about the Crimson Tide's chances this season.
Has there been progress? Sure, it just depends on how it's measured.
"The first two months, I wasn't able to barely walk," Ronald Steele said. "From there to where I am now, I think I'm making a lot of progress."
Ronald Steele underwent arthroscopic surgery April 3 to repair cartilage in both knees. While a "scope" typically isn't a major ordeal, his procedures were "more serious than people thought it was," Ronald Steele said.
"That's what is taking me so long," Ronald Steele said. "I didn't think it would be as serious as it was, but I had a lot done."
A twisted ankle in December at Notre Dame seemed to be the cause of his 2006-07 injury woes, but it goes back farther. His knees were a growing problem all along. Actually, "The Man of Steele" hasn't been healthy for the better part of two years.
Ronald Steele now admits his knees were bothering him the season before, when he averaged more than 38 minutes per game and logged 40 minutes a whopping 17 times.
"It started bothering me a little bit going back to even my sophomore year," Ronald Steele said. "I just passed it as it wasn't anything, and over the summer, it got worse. Then my junior year, it was pretty bad. The ankle was a byproduct of me playing on my knee. They were kind of related."
The condition worsened by the end of last season. Ronald Steele completely missed three of the final five games and hoisted only two shots in 17 minutes during defeats to Auburn and Kentucky.
Alabama simply wasn't the same without him, missing the NCAA tournament while slumping to a 1-5 finish. That included an overtime loss at Massachusetts in the first round of the NIT tournament.
As another season nears, Ronald Steele is still not where he would like to be. Gingerly testing his legs along the way, he dressed for Sunday night's practice at Coleman Coliseum and tried to participate.
He dribbled a little. He launched a few shots and even more free throws.
"Seeing him not being able to compete," Tide teammate Richard Hendrix said, "it's tearing him up inside."
Next week's offseason exhibition trip to Canada is not worth the risk, and Ronald Steele will not play.
"I think, (it is) more than precaution," Gottfried said. "I want him to be 100 percent. I want him to be at point where he feels comfortable and the doctors do, and I think we're probably still a few weeks away."
Physicians have told Ronald Steele he will be ready for the regular season. That's what he has to go on.
Hope will help, too.
"Hopefully," Ronald Steele said, "it will go according to plan."