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Former Decatur High all-star guard Rico Pickett leaves for Alabama on Sunday. After setting the bar high at Decatur, he now plans to be a contributor at Alabama next season. He says he has been practicing his shooting since his high school career ended in March.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Former Decatur High all-star guard Rico Pickett leaves for Alabama on Sunday. After setting the bar high at Decatur, he now plans to be a contributor at Alabama next season. He says he has been practicing his shooting since his high school career ended in March.

Shooting at goals
Rico Pickett working hard
to be in major role at Alabama

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

The sky is becoming hazy, the weather is warming, and we are a several months away from the beginning of basketball season.

But that has not stopped Decatur High grad and soon-to-be Alabama freshman guard Rico Pickett from hoisting up close to 500 shots per visit to the gym. Like fellow Decaturite and future Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, Pickett has some lofty goals.

But before Pickett starts the next phase in his already stellar basketball career, he sat down with Daily sports writer Josh Cooper to discuss his future.

Question: What have you been up to since the season ended?

Answer: I've been staying in the gym, staying in shape, working on my shot and keeping my grades up. That's about it. I'm going into the gym when nobody is in there and working on my shot a lot. That's really what I'm working on. Just getting up about 500 shots a day in my free time. When I go to the gym and play, I constantly run so I stay in shape.

Q: Have you talked to coach Mark Gottfried about some kind of off-season workout program?

A: Yeah, I asked him about it, but they haven't sent me one, so I'll get it when I get there.

Q: You talked about your shot. Is it the area you feel you need to most improve in?

A: Yeah, I feel like you can always improve on your shot. That's one of my biggest things. That and defense, but right now it's just working on my shot.

Q: What are your thoughts on fellow Decatur high classmates and Alabama freshman linebacker Rolando McClain heading to Tuscaloosa with you?

A: We're going on the same day (Sunday), so it's going to be pretty exciting. I'm real pumped about it. It's good to see someone else from my school going down there, let alone Decatur. It will be fun.

Q: How much attention did you pay to Alabama's 2006-07 basketball season?

A: I watched every game I could. It was a disappointing season, I can't lie about that, but hopefully we will turn it around.

Q: What did you see in the team that could be improved upon?

A: Chemistry and people stepping up and playing every night. One game this person showed up, the next game somebody else did. It was supposed to be everybody playing every night as best they can.

Q: How much contact do you have with Athens High graduate Richard Hendrix?

A: He was here (a few weekends ago). He came and played with us at the gym. He and (Alabama guard) Mykal Riley. They came down and played with us. I talk to him a good bit now. I'm just trying to get close to my teammates. He's just trying to tell me the ins and outs and to be prepared and just to listen to what coach Gottfried will tell me.

Q: Did you play with him during that pickup game?

A: Actually, I didn't have a chance to play with him. I don't think the players we were playing with wanted us both on the same team. But Mykal was on my team, and I could get the feel of playing with him and where he liked the ball.

Q: What are your thoughts on point guard Ronald Steele returning for his senior season?

A: I believe I will probably get moved over to shooting guard. But I'm just looking to contribute to the team. Whether I start or don't start, I just want to come in and help the team.

Q: Did Ronald give you any advice?

A: He told me how he was going to take me under his wing and show me the ropes of being a point guard on the team.

Q: What were your thoughts on his injury problems and his struggles?

A: I wished I was there to help him. At the same time, I was trying to help my team win a state championship. My thought is that I wish I was there to help him.

Q: Why did you de-commit from Alabama during the recruiting process and was there a chance you could have gone elsewhere?

A: There was a big chance. I didn't think I had given the recruiting process enough time to sink in and seek other options because after I made a 22 on my ACT, I automatically went with Alabama. I figured I would do it before it was too late.

Q: Why did you re-commit so quickly?

A: I found out the teams I was considering weren't a good fit for me, and people were there at my position and around the same class as me. So, it came back to Bama as the right fit for me.

Q: What teams were looking at you?

A: Arizona, UConn, Kansas, Texas A&M, Illinois, N.C. State, Florida State, Florida.

Q: When you de-committed, did your phone start ringing off the hook?

A: The same night. That is the honest-to-God truth. That night my phone started ringing. It was crazy. Calling the house at all hours of the night. Sometimes we would just unplug the phone just to be in peace at home. That is how crazy it was. They knew I had to make a decision quick. It was my house phone, cell phone, my coach's (Jamie Lee) house phone, his cell phone. It was like that.

Q: How do you look at the team's expectations next year?

A: I think we should have a big impact in the NCAA tournament. First of all, make it to the NCAA tournament, then have a good regular season and make a push to get to the Final Four. We should be good enough to do it.

Q: Why did you choose Alabama in the first place?

A: Coach Gottfried. He seems like he would be a great coach to play for, by me just talking to him. It seems like he would be someone who I would enjoy playing for. Also, just the atmosphere in Tuscaloosa. I like how the fans get into it. And it is a good school to get a good education.

Q: What are your personal goals?

A: My goal is to be SEC freshman of the year. I am going to strive to be the best I can be, but that is one of my goals.

Q: Do you feel like you are mature enough to go away from home?

A: I feel real ready and prepared for this. And I have for half a year.

Q: What makes you feel that way?

A: Just being groomed the way I have been with my dad and my family and Coach Lee, I just feel like I am ready to do this.

Q: Are you sad to leave Decatur?

A: I am because I love Decatur. I'm going to be sad, but I'm on to bigger and better things.

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