AP photo by Dusty Compton|
Alabama's Richard Hendrix (35) makes a shot over Troy's O'Darien Bassett in the first half of the Tide's 84-72 win in Tuscaloosa on Friday night. Hendrix, who prepped at Athens High, finished the night with 22 points and 23 rebounds.
Slimmer Hendrix simmers
Athens grad scores 22 points, grabs 23 rebounds as Tide gets past pesky Troy
By Josh Cooper
email@example.com · 340-2460
TUSCALOOSA — If the first game of the season was a preview of what is to come, it might be a pretty good year for Alabama’s Richard Hendrix.
Sleeker looking than a year ago, Hendrix was his typically dominant inside presence, scoring 22 points and grabbing a career-high 23 rebounds for the Crimson Tide in its 84-72 season-opening victory against Troy.
When asked if the game brought him back to his time at Athens High, where he averaged 22.7 points and 14.9 rebounds his senior year, Hendrix gave a resounding yes.
“Those came regular in high school,” Hendrix said with a wide grin. “I wish I could go back to those days.”
During the first few months of school, Hendrix worked to drop his weight from 275 pounds down to his current 255, and in the first game of the season, a more agile Hendrix was obvious to Alabama coach Mark Gottfried.
“I’m seeing a guy out there now that can last longer and be more productive for longer minutes,” Gottfried said. “He couldn’t do that last year.”
Part of Hendrix’s big rebounding haul came during a period in the second half when Gottfried said his team changed to a zone defense.
With 9:39 remaining in the second half, O’Darien Bassett’s two free throws cut the Crimson Tide’s lead to 68-67, and Alabama switched its approach to slow the Trojans’ offense.
Gottfried also wanted Hendrix underneath the basket where he could grab more errant Troy shots.
The move worked as Troy didn’t score until Trayce Macon hit a pair of three throws with 2:08 remaining. By that point, the Crimson Tide had built an 81-69 lead, and the game’s outcome was a moot point. In the second half, the Trojans shot 27.5 percent from the field.
“When we went to our zone, they were easier to guard,” Gottfried said. “We knew where they were. They didn’t have as much motion, and it enabled Richard to stay around the basket.”
Hendrix wasn’t Alabama’s only inside presence as forward Demetrius Jemison finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
In his first collegiate game, Decatur High graduate Rico Pickett started at point guard, went 2-for-4 from the field, scored four points and passed out four assists.
At times Pickett looked like a freshman, as his five turnovers in 19 minutes indicated, but he also played like a veteran as well.
“I was little bit nervous,” Pickett said. “I was rushing a lot of things because of all the turnovers I had. I was comfortable for the most part. It took about five minutes, and then after that, I was all right.”
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