Sports Editor’s Mailbag: Women’s basketball conference play predictions, team’s identity and recruiting 

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

Alabama women’s basketball returns to action on Thursday against No. 7 Tennessee. Ahead of that matchup, Sports Editor Ashlee Woods answers your questions about all things women’s basketball. Have questions? DM Ashlee on Twitter @ashleemwoods or email her at [email protected]

Q: What do you think is the team’s identity going into conference play? 

A. I think this team is a gritty, tough and fun group to watch. Alabama had two tough losses to Tulane and Duke, but the Crimson Tide has found its rhythm during the last stretch of nonconference play. 

A lot of Alabama’s grittiness is attached to how aggressive they are on both the offensive and defensive glass. Alabama is not afraid to get to the glass. In fact, the Crimson Tide is sixth overall in the SEC in rebounds with 463. Their ability to attack the glass consistently allows them to build long scoring runs, like the 30-7 run that occurred late in the second half against Chattanooga. 

Alabama is also very aggressive on the backcourt. Head coach Kristy Curry implemented various styles of defenses in nonconference play. However, I think the most success has come when the Crimson Tide play full-court press defense. 

When Alabama set up in this style of defense, they forced teams to make contested shots or even shot-clock violations. Against Memphis on Nov. 30, Alabama got the Tigers to commit a shot-clock violation on their first possession of the game. That’s how good Alabama has been on the backcourt. The Crimson Tide isn’t afraid to get in their opponents’ faces and make them shoot over them. 

This team has a lot of fun personalities, too. During their last nonconference game, against Sam Houston State, the energetic crowd of fifth-graders absolutely loved everything guard JaMya Mingo-Young did. Mingo-Young obviously fed off of that, but this is a common occurrence. Whether they’re on the court or on the bench, every player on this team is having fun. The players cheer for every shot, show their emotions and feed off each other’s energy. There’s rarely a dull moment in Coleman Coliseum with this team. 

Q: What player(s) have impressed you the most this season? 

The two players that have stood out to me are Mingo-Young and fellow guard Megan Abrams. Both of these athletes have been so vital to Alabama’s early success. 

I’ll start with Abrams. She has really come into her own as a shooter in her senior season. Abrams is 13th overall in the SEC in points per game and 10th overall in the SEC in 3-point percentage. She also has seven games with double-digit points and four with 20+ points. With such efficient offenses in the SEC like South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky, Alabama needs consistent shot-makers and Abrams can be that person. She can be as vital to Alabama in SEC play as now-Baylor guard Jordan Lewis was for the Crimson Tide last season. 

Mingo-Young is such a talented and fun athlete to watch. When you watch Alabama women’s basketball games, you see how she flies around the court. A lot of the backcourt success is a credit to her skill and grit. The Mississippi State transfer is understanding her role on the team more and more — something fans should be excited about. 

As far as production on the court, Mingo-Young is 28th overall in points per game, but she has earned her first three career double-doubles this season. The latest came against Sam Houston State. She scored 15 points and notched 11 rebounds. Mingo-Young is fifth in the SEC and 25th in the NCAA in steals with 32. Even when she’s not making her shots, she is providing opportunities for her team on the defensive side of the court.  

Q: What happened to Kayla Blackshear? 

Blackshear transferred to Georgia Tech on Dec. 15. She played some valuable minutes off the bench in the first three games of the season. Her best performance came against Charleston Southern. Blackshear played 16 minutes, scoring nine points and notching six rebounds. You never want to see a player leave the Crimson Tide, especially after three games, but I hope she does well at Georgia Tech. 

Q: How do you think this team stacks up in conference play?

Alabama has gone .500 in conference play the past two seasons. The team knows how to put together a full 40-minute effort to beat some of the best in the conference and the country. Alabama earned a signature win over Mississippi State last season. 

This team has players among the top in the SEC in scoring, 3-pointers made, assists, rebounds and steals. This team also has more length than in years past. The height Alabama has added will be vital against teams like Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M and South Carolina. This team has also improved defensively, forcing shot-clock violations, errant passes and turnovers. 

I think this Alabama team can shock some people in the SEC. The Crimson Tide have made the necessary moves in the offseason to be a threat in conference play. I don’t normally predict records, but I think Alabama can be an above-.500 team.