TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Jahvon Quinerly has only played in one game for Alabama basketball to start the 2022-23 season. Recovering from a torn ACL, the senior guard recently returned to the practice court but had to watch Nate Oats’ fourth team from the sidelines in the summer.
But whether observing from afar or witnessing it when healthy, Quinerly noticed a difference. Not just in the number of new players on the roster but also their willingness to be coached.
“Our length this year is very much like our Sweet 16 team, long guys all over the court,” said Quinerly after the 65-55 win over South Alabama. “I think this group is willing to learn a little bit better than last year’s group. Guys are just willing to take the constructive criticism, whether it’s from a coach or a teammate, and that’s vital in a good program.”
Quinerly is one of only five returning players from last year’s team that finished with a 19-14 (9-9 SEC) record and a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament – four when considering Nimari Burnett missed the entire 2021-22 campaign due to an injury knee. But the players that are back for another year have seen a more coachable group through the first three games.
“I think we all understand the goal that we’re trying to get to this year, and we understand that we haven’t reached our potential yet,” grad student forward Noah Gurley said. “So any criticism that comes, nobody’s taking offense to it. I get chewed out by Coach, all the way down to the freshmen, but it’s all out of love, at the end of the day. It’s all out of the spirit of winning.”
Alabama (3-0) is off to a strong start, but we will learn more about this squad soon with the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland and games against Houston, Memphis and Gonzaga coming up. Early on, however, Oats has liked what he has seen from this team, especially how some of the veterans have taken ownership and attempted to help bring along the new additions.
“It’s been a lot better, to be honest with you,” Oats said. “And I think guys are more willing to take it, and we’ve got more guys willing to try to coach guys. I think JQ’s leading that. It happened today. He’s talking to Rylan Griffen about screen angles and timing. You’ve got Noah Gurley coaching Nick Pringle today. Noah’s been in the program, knows what we want. You just see that a lot more. If you don’t wanna receive the constructive criticism, guys are gonna quit giving it to you, at which point you’re not gonna get better.
“I tell the guys all the time, there’s a quote from Bob Cousy: ‘Criticism is like gold. You should worry at the lack of it.’ As soon as I quit coaching you, that’s when you better start being worried, and the same thing with your teammates. If you’re gonna react in a negative way to guys trying to help get you better, well then they’re gonna stop trying to help get you better. If your teammates aren’t trying to get you better and the coach isn’t trying to get you better, there probably isn’t a spot for you on the team anymore.
“Now, you can say all that and guys still have egos and get real defensive. I think this year, our guys are learning to check their egos at the door and let’s just get better. Let’s get the team better, let’s get better individually. You can’t get better without getting coached, getting criticized, if you will. Let’s make it constructive to get guys better. Let’s just not get on guys. But I think receiving it and giving it, it’s all been going pretty good this year so far.”
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