News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Knee injuries force UA's Steele to sideline for season

By Josh Cooper 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Alabama went into almost every basketball game last year not knowing whether the often-injured Ronald Steele would play.

Now, with less than two months until the first game, the Crimson Tide already knows the answer for every game this season. The school announced Monday that Steele, still hurting from two off-season knee surgeries, will take a medical redshirt, sit out the season and return in 2008-09 for his senior season.

"I am someone who tries to approach whatever I do with my best effort, and I know my body. At this point in time, I don't believe I will be 100 percent by the start of practice," Steele said in a statement released by the school. "This is something I've put a lot of thought and prayer into. I want to play my best and play an entire season and know I've done everything I can on the court to help Alabama win."

With Steele missing the season, the door could open for Decatur High grad Rico Pickett to gain more playing time. Pickett is an incoming freshman point guard, the same position Steele plays.

Practice starts Oct. 12, and the Tide's first regular season game is Nov. 9 against Troy.

Last season, Steele was bothered by chronic knee problems stemming from cartilage defects. He had arthroscopic surgery on both knees April 3 to correct the problem, but needed to have a second procedure Aug. 23 on his left knee.

Steele said in the statement that he wouldn't be able to get into playing shape in time to make a meaningful contribution.

"The doctors have told me my future for playing is good," Steele said. "But right now the timing for me to heal and be back in shape like I need to be to play on the level we play isn't on my side."

Steele averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 assists in 2006 in leading the Crimson Tide to the NCAA second round.

A preseason Associated Press All-American the following season, Steele's knees began to bother him, and he was never healthy the whole year.

He averaged 8.6 points per game as the Tide didn't make it past the first round of the NIT, finishing 20-12. He played in 26 of Alabama's 32 games.

"I completely support him and this decision," Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. "I have said many times I will not put him on the floor prior to being 100 percent, and it is my hope that Ron will return next season even better than before."

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