Steele says he's physically fit, ready for the NBA
After not playing in a real basketball game for more than a year, University of Alabama point guard Ronald Steele will attempt to play his next game in the NBA.
Steele made the official announcement on Tuesday at a press conference at Coleman Coliseum.
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'This decision may come as a surprise to some,' said Steele, who sat out the 2007-08 season as a redshirt while rehabilitating from surgery on both knees. 'While I did not participate in any games this year, I did practice fully with the team. Since January, I have felt as good physically as at any time in my career. I believe my basketball skills have never been better. It is my hope that the NBA will invite me to the pre-draft camp. If they do, I plan to show the NBA staff that I am better than I have ever been.'
Steele said he would not hire an agent 'or do anything to jeopardize my eligibility at Alabama.'
'I intend to keep all my options open, including playing at the University of Alabama [as a senior] next year,' he said.
However, Ronald Steele said that he would be 'pursuing my dream full speed' in his attempt to impress the NBA scouts. He added that he was not merely 'previewing' for scouts in an attempt to position himself for the 2009 NBA draft.
'That might be a by-product, but I am going to do the best I can this year,' he said. 'At the same time, I am going to listen to what the guys on the NBA Committee tell me, then sit down and talk with my family about it.'
The NBA Pre-Draft Camp is scheduled to begin on May 27 in Orlando.
Steele was one of the top point guards in the SEC in his freshman and sophomore seasons and was a pre-season All-America pick going into his junior year. He suffered a knee injury prior to that season (2006-07) and struggled through the season. He had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in April 2007, then had an additional surgery on his left knee in August 2007.
Steele said he had full family support in his decision. His younger brother, Andrew Steele, is one of the members of the Crimson Tide's nationally-rated incoming freshman class.
'Your family is going to always support you,' Steele said. 'I've been blessed enough to have a great family. I talk with my brother a lot about it, and he's excited. I know he would want to play with me next year, but I've had unbelievable support. That's made it a lot easier. My family, mom and dad, everybody has been behind me in whatever decision that I chose to make. As long as I thought about it logically, they were supporting me, they were behind me.'
Crimson Tide head coach Mark Gottfried said he also supported Steele's decision to explore the draft, as he did the similar decision made by UA forward Richard Hendrix in late March.
Gottfried said that Steele began to round into form during January's practices.
'I think it took him a few weeks condition-wise. I think he just played at a high level,' he said. 'You have to remember, as a freshman and as a sophomore, playing here at Alabama, playing for our staff, Ron elevated his play where he was considered one of the premier point guards in the nation.
'Nobody believes in him more than me. I know. If he's fortunate enough to be a first-round pick or wherever he's comfortable, what he wants to do, I'll be happy for him. If he chooses to come back to Alabama, we'll be excited about that as well. So, but that's where we are.'
Gottfried admitted that the coming months in which he awaits a decision from Hendrix and Steele will be difficult.
'There [are] unknowns,' he said. 'There is nothing you can do to control it. That's part of situation you're in. I don't fault Ron one bit, or Richard. Again, I want them to pursue and see where they are and hopefully go from there. It's just part of the territory. You don't begrudge any person for pursuing that and trying to look out for potential opportunity there.'