Tide Hoops Host No. 16 Vanderbilt at 1 p.m. Saturday in Final Home Game
Saturday will be “Senior Day” in Coleman Coliseum as three senior basketball players and one manager will make their final home appearance as members of the University of Alabama basketball team.
Alabama, 15-15 overall and 4-11 in the Southeastern Conference, plays its final regular season game Saturday at 1 p.m. CT against the No. 16 ranked Vanderbilt Commodores, 25-5, 10-5. Tickets for the game may be purchased at the door on in advance through Alabama’s official website.
Alabama basketball trading cards, featuring all 15 of the Crimson Tide’s 2008 players and head coach Mark Gottfried will be given out to the first fans with tickets who come through the doors. Fans are asked to arrive early and be in their seats for the “Senior Day” ceremony where the Tide plays tribute to senior players Mykal Riley of Pine Bluff, Ark., John Dill of Florence and Kyle Sellers of Tuscaloosa and senior manager Heather Mesalam of Indianapolis, Ind. It will take place with 15:00 remaining on the pre-game clock.
The Tide has compiled a 79-8 (.908%) record on “Senior Day,” traditionally the last regular season home appearance for the senior class. Twice Alabama has won 34 straight “Senior Day” games, including going into the 2004 final game when Mississippi State snapped the three-decades-long streak with an 82-81 overtime win. Going into Saturday, Alabama has won the last three “Senior Day” games since.
“It’s been great being a part of this program,” said Dill whose father Johnny Dill played basketball for the Tide as well. “I’ve been very fortunate to play here. It’s one of the highest levels of basketball that you can get to, and it’s the place where I always wanted to play. I only wanted to play at one college. This is where I’ve always wanted to be, ever since I was a little kid, and I’ve achieved that goal. It’s been great. It’s been a dream come true to play basketball at the University of Alabama, especially being from this state.”
All will have graduated from the University of Alabama by May. Riley, a human environmental sciences major, and Dill, a history major who plans to attend law school, graduated in December along with teammate Ronald Steele who is a redshirt this season. Sellers, with a business management degree, and Mesalam will graduate in May along with teammates Richard Hendrix and Greg Cage who are graduating within three years of enrolling.
Riley, who has started in 48 of the 70 games he’s played in at Alabama, transferred last season from Panola, Texas, Junior College. A man who ranks among the top 25 in the SEC in scoring and rebounding with 14.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a game, he has scored 20 or more points five times this season, including in three of his last five games. He tied a school record with his eight 3-point shots made (of 10 attempts) at South Carolina on February 16.
“Mykal has had a great two years. He’s fit in well here on the floor and I think he’s fit in very well off the floor,” said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. “He’s a great person. I’m proud for him, too, that he got his degree within a two-year time period of being here from junior college. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to and he’s done it well.”
For Riley, it’s been a great career move. A good student in the classroom, he chose to go the junior college route because he was not recruited out of high school by Division I schools but wanted to keep playing basketball and get a college degree.
“It’s been a lot of fun since I got here at Alabama,” said Riley who led the nation in steals at Panola. “There have been ups and downs, but it’s been a whole lot of ups. In the two years I’ve had here, I’ve had a lot of fun. Playing on this level has been a great experience. It’s definitely a different speed than junior college, especially playing in the SEC. I think I adjusted to it okay, and playing at this level has helped my game. I’d like to keep on playing after I leave here, and I know playing here will have helped me make that next step. And I’m proud I already have my degree from the University of Alabama. If I don’t play, or if I do play a while, I will have that to help me maybe coach some day or do whatever.”
Like his fellow senior honorees, Sellers transferred to Alabama as well. The Tuscaloosa County High School graduate played basketball at Shelton State for two seasons before transferring to Alabama. He, too, is a Bama basketball legacy as his father, Tuscaloosa’s Lee Sellers, played for Alabama as well.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said Kyle Sellers of his experience as a member of the Alabama basketball team. “ It’s been a dream come true. It’s something I dreamed about doing ever since I was a little kid coming to games my whole life. This has been the ultimate dream come true. My dad played on the JV team back in the 1970’s. I always wanted to be like my dad, follow in his footsteps, so it’s been really special.”
Sellers and Dill have not had the playing time that Riley has, but Tide head coach Mark Gottfried is quick to point out how important they have been to the program.
“People don’t ever get to see, on a day-to-day-basis, how hard those guys work,” said Gottfried of Alabama’s walk-ons. “They don’t get a lot of credit in the public, but their teammates have a lot of respect for them. We have a lot of respect as a coaching staff. You get to accomplish a lot because they help your team prepare. And these guys particularly, they’ve got great attitudes. They’ve just done a great job. And the same goes for Heather, our manager. She works hard and she has a great attitude every day.”
Originally, guard Greg Cage was going to be in the group. The two-time Academic All-SEC player has been accepted into both Alabama’s MBA program and the School of Law. He will earn dual degrees. First year law school students aren’t allowed to play a sport, so Cage thought his playing career would end, but on Tuesday he was told he could work on the MBA first and still play out a final season of eligibility, so he will return.
Saturday afternoon’s game will be televised on Raycom Sports with Tom Hammond calling the play-by-play and Joe Dean, Jr., as analyst for the broadcast.
Fans attending the game are reminded of the convenience of the Crimson Ride, a free shuttle service to Coleman Coliseum on game days. Starting one hour before tip-off, the Crimson Ride transit system runs a direct route to transport fans from the Soccer Lot, located off University Boulevard, to the front entrance of Coleman Coliseum. Signs are posted on Bryant Drive and 2nd Avenue directing traffic to this parking lot and free shuttle service. After the game the buses will pick up directly at the front of the coliseum on the west side. The coliseum parking lot is utilized for handicap parking and for permit holders. General public parking is located in areas north and west of the coliseum, including the Soccer Lot, the Alumni Hall Lot, the surface lot located at the southwest corner of Paul Bryant Drive and Hackberry Lane, the UA Aquatic Center south lot, Baptist Student Union parking lot and the Hayden Harris parking lot.