TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The University of Alabama men's basketball team officially closed the 2013-14 campaign with its annual awards banquet Tuesday evening at Coleman Coliseum. UA student-athletes, managers and support staff were recognized and honored for their efforts on and off the court throughout the season.
The Crimson Tide finished the season with a 13-19 overall mark and tied for 10th in Southeastern Conference play with a 7-11 record. Alabama, which ended its season with a loss to LSU in the SEC Tournament, was joined by nearly 400 supporters and members of the Tuscaloosa Tip-Off Club, which sponsored the event along with Tide Pride.
Following dinner, Grant spoke to the assembled crowd to give a few brief comments on the team's growth and success throughout the season and extended his heartfelt gratitude and thanks to the many supporters of the program.
In addition to recognizing the entire team and staff, special praise was given to the team's three departing seniors in guards Trevor Releford and Isiah Wilson as well as center Carl Engstrom. Senior managers Andrew Langley, Anthony "AJ" Register, and Blake Gray were also recognized.
A list of individual honors awarded and comments on each from Grant at the banquet follows below.
Most Outstanding Player Award - Trevor Releford
"This player is very dear to me. We have talked about his achievements on the court, but I'm much more proud of what he's accomplished as a man. The last game we did a highlight video of him for our guys that went from his freshman year through his senior year. It was right before your eyes, you see him go from a boy to a man. This is a young man, since the time he stepped on campus, has really impacted our program. The thing we talked about when he came in was him having an opportunity to leave his footprints in this program and help this program become relevant and consistent in terms of what we're trying to build. Despite all of the difficulties and some of the hardships we went through over the course of the season, I'm extremely proud of the way he carried himself and his commitment to his team and commitment to try and leave a legacy. Along the way, he just happened to become one of the top five leading scorers in school history, the all-time leading steals guy in school history, one of the top 10 assists guys in school history, No. 1 in games played over the course of his career, and I think will forever be remembered by all of those that follow Alabama Basketball. Like I told him, just to be able to lay the ground work, the building blocks, for what we want to become and he will forever be a part of that. I'm proud to recognize his accomplishments on the court, but more importantly as a man. He's earned his degree. He's already done and is already in preparation right now, hopefully for a long and lucrative, professional career."
Student-Athlete Award - Levi Randolph, Carl Engstrom, and Dakota Slaughter
"This was a tough decision to make because our guys have done a tremendous job academically, so tonight we are going to honor three individuals that did a tremendous job being student-athletes."
On Slaughter - "This goes to one of our young men, who for two years, was a walk-on for us and did an outstanding job in that role and we had an opportunity this year to put him on scholarship. He was tremendous on a daily basis in what he brought to our team, but I don't think the recognition for the demands that these guys go through from an academic standpoint get enough recognition. This young man is going into his senior year and I think every year that he's been here; he's carried a 4.0 grade point average. The first award goes to Dakota Slaughter."
On Randolph - "This next award goes to another junior. This is a young man that has done an outstanding job. When recruiting this young man, one of the things that we talked about early when we took a walk around our academic facilities, was that he set a goal as a senior in high school to become an Academic All-American. That's something that I think has really motivated and driven him. He's close. He's got one more season left to try and accomplish that. It's great to see a young man that tries to excel in every aspect and expect excellence in everything that he does. Like he and I have talked about on several occasions, when you strive to be the best you can be that's all that anyone can ever ask of you and that's all you can ever ask of yourself. This is a young man, who I think has certainly represented this university in a first class manor and is an outstanding student with a 3.4 GPA in the College of Business."
On Engstrom - "This is the last of the academic awards goes to a senior. This young man came to us four years ago being pretty brand new to the game of basketball, but not brand new to a work ethic and an understanding of the opportunity that he had, the work he would put in, and the way he wanted to go about doing it. Carl Engstrom will graduate this year with a 3.5 GPA and I'm certainly proud of everything that he's done and everything he's meant to our program."
Outstanding Freshman Award - Shannon Hale
"This award is going to go to a young man who I'm extremely proud of because of everything that he persevered through over the course of the season. The one thing that we always talked about was his need to continue to prepare himself mentally and physically to take advantage of the opportunity that could present itself with no promise. I've said this before and it's something that I always live by, `It's better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.' This young man, probably the first 10 games of the season, was up-and-down in terms of those opportunities and his readiness to take advantage of those opportunities. He stuck with it and did a great job of remaining patient, listening, taking coaching, and taking criticism in terms of what he needed to do. Along the way an opportunity presented itself and I thought he really blossomed with that opportunity. At the end, he was recognized as an Outstanding Freshman in our conference. He ended up being our second leading scorer in conference play and our second leading rebounder. I think he has an extremely bright future and has just scratched the surface of how good he could be with continued work and progress."
Hustle Award - Retin Obasohan
"This is an award that we take quite a bit of pride in as a coaching staff because this is an indication of effort, energy, and want to. This award is going to go to a young man who I think has so many breathtaking plays, where you say `How did he get to that ball?' or `Block that shot?' It's something that we, as coaches, we recognize every day, we chart every day in terms of hustle stats and the energy and effort that our guys are playing with. This recipient of this year's hustle award is a young man who ended up being second on our team in steals, second in blocked shots, and one of our leaders in overall hustle stats."