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9/20/2006 03:03:00 AM
Blog Q&A With ... Alabama's Ronald Steele
Ronald Steele was an honorable mention All-America pick in 2005-06, and a first-team All-SEC point guard.
As part of the blog's series of summer (or now, just offseason) Q&As, I chatted with Alabama's Ronald Steele, who returns for his junior year as one of the nation's most talented point guards. In 2005-06, Steele averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 assists per game as the Crimson Tide lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to eventual runner-up UCLA.
Luke Winn: You had to make a quick transition last season from being a pass-first point guard to, after Chuck Davis got hurt, a guy who was counted on to score. Was it a tough switch, and how did you make it happen?
Ronald Steele: I was always a pass-first guy, but I want to win more than anything, so after talking to coach, and knowing my teammates were encouraging me, I started looking to score more and be more aggressive. It made it easy when I knew I had the support of the coaches.
LW: And were you always comfortable with that?
RS: Honestly, I kind of felt selfish at times, because I always looked to distribute first. To have to have the ball and be offensively aggressive as far as scoring, I had to take a different mindset. Once we started to win [the Tide finished 10-6 in the SEC] I got more accustomed to it, and just rolled with it.
LW: Another part of that added load was an insane amount of minutes. You're known as an Ironman now -- you played at least 39 minutes in 20 of your last 21 games. Is this a pride thing for you, or is it strictly out of necessity?
RS: Well, it started because that's what we needed at the time. We didn't have a lot of depth, and I just grew into that Ironman thing -- I knew it had to be my role. But I enjoy playing out there, and I'm sure there are other people who would be happy to be playing, so I'm gonna stay on the court.
LW: And you don't get exhausted?
RS: We probably have the best conditioning program in the country, so I don't get that tired. A lot of it is about being mentally tough, too. Pretty much my whole life, I've had to play a lot of minutes, so I've learned some stuff, like knowing when to pick my spots to be aggressive on offense; knowing when not to push it; or maybe trying to get to the free-throw line more often to slow down the game.
LW: So you'll intentionally try to draw fouls when you need a rest -- kind of an on-court time out?
RS: You have to try to gain any advantage. If I know we need a rest, or if I'm getting tired, I might try to get the ball inside more, where we'll get fouled. Coach [Mark Gottfried] does a good job of calling timeouts and playing the game smart, too.
LW: There's a legend about how you used to carry around a basketball at all times -- to class, at home, pretty much everywhere -- but I've heard you've switched to a tennis ball now?
RS: That's true. I heard that it was something Steve Nash did in college, and he's one of my favorite players. It's a little more convenient than a basketball, and it probably works better. If you can dribble a tennis ball, you can dribble a basketball -- and if the best point guard in the league did it, then I figure I should do it.
LW: How did you find out about Nash doing it?
RS: I read about it in a magazine a while ago [ed: SI had it in 1995 and 2001], but it really started when my teammate Jermareo Davidson pointed it out to me. He saw it on NBA Live, the video game -- it was one of the facts they had on there about Nash. And I just went with it from there.
LW: You got a chance to play at Michael Jordan's Flight School (in Santa Barbara, Calif.) this summer -- and MJ talked to you a little bit. What did he say?
RS: Basically, he just told me a lot of basketball stuff: Being a point guard, that I was in control, and that I had to not only play for myself, but play for the four other guys on the court. The biggest thing I took away from it, though, was how competitive he was on the court. Every game -- even pickup stuff -- he wasn't out there just playing, he was trying to win. He was always competitive, and it brought the best out of everybody on the court.
LW: I read an old quote from you, from last season, where you said graduating from college was a big priority of yours. You passed on the Draft this year, but given the reality that you're a first-round NBA prospect, how committed are you to staying at Alabama for four years?
RS: That's important to me, graduation. It's important to me and my family. I'll talk to my coaches and everything when we come to that point -- and unless it's an opportunity that I can't pass up, I'll stay. But really, it's not on my mind at all right now. It's going to be a judgment we'll make at the end of the season.
LW: How easy -- or difficult -- was it for you to decide to stay this year?
RS: This was the smart decision. I looked into [turning pro], but I wasn't going to do it unless it was a great situation, and knowing the team we had coming back, and the season coming up, I wasn't going to take that risk.
LW: How did your conversations with coach Gottfried go when you were mulling it over?
RS: [Gottfried] was supportive of whatever decision I made -- he was just trying to give me the best information. It was a good situation; he was giving me feedback, and talking to my parents. We looked at what happened with Kennedy Winston, who left early the year before that, and all of that played a part.
LW: The fact that Kennedy went undrafted when he came out, did that weigh heavily on your mind?
RS: Even though his decision was a totally different situation than mine, I'd be lying if I said it didn't play a part in my thinking. I talked with him all during last season, and he gave me good advice. He let me know how hard it was for him playing overseas, and told me some of the things he didn't evaluate as he was coming out. He didn't try to persuade me one way or the other, but he gave examples.
LW: Speaking of another former teammate, how do you feel about the NCAA's decision this summer to not grant Chuck Davis another year of eligibility?
RS: We were all pretty hurt by it. Because a lot of people were saying we were a better team without him [when he got hurt last season] and that was a lie. We just matured as a team after he went out. For how much he meant to our program, for his great career to end on a bad note like that ... it would have been good to let him go out the right way.
LW: You beat Florida 82-77 the only time you faced them [on Feb. 26] last season. How did it feel to watch the Gators go on and win the whole thing?
RS: I was happy for them, that they got a chance to win one. I'm really good friends with a lot of those guys, like Taurean [Green] and Corey Brewer. Knowing how close we were with them, though, you do keep thinking about how close you were to making it, too. So it's good and bad.
LW: In your tournament loss to UCLA, you had a few chances to win it in the final minute. How much does that stick with you still?
RS: It's motivation more than anything now. I've had the chance to watch it over and over again, and get over the hurt of it, so it's just a motivational tool for me to know how close I was to getting to that next round.
LW: So how many times do you think you've watched it?
RS: Oh man. I can't count how many times I've watched that last play. I have a copy of it in Tuscaloosa [at school] and in Birmingham [at home]. Every time I go home, it seems like my brother [Andrew, who's younger], is watching that game. I guess he likes seeing it again, but I'm ready to burn that tape.
Being from Tuscaloosa and watching Alabama basketball since 1979, Ronald Steele is the most complete point guard I have seen in a long time. He can turn a game around with his passing, going to the hoop and drawing the foul, hitting the 3-point shot, making a big steal on defense, but most of all his all around court awareness creates confidence with the rest of his teamates and makes them better. That is the true sign of a great point guard, making everyone else around you better!! I'm looking forward to watching Ronald continue to grow as a player not only at Alabama, but also once he enters the NBA.
WRONG! Ronald Steele is the best PG in the nation.
45%+ from 3pt range. 50% from the field. 905+ from FT line. 5+ assits per game. Under 2 TOs per game. 2+ steals PG. Those are the "at leasts" this season.
UNC has nothing. Davidson, Henedrix, Gee, Hollinger, and of course Steele. You got two big guys, one fat butt warrior amongst them, Gee who is athletic beyond belief, and Hollinger who is quick and a glue guy with great ball handling ability. Defensively they are gonna be tight, experienced, and quick. Good size too, except for Hollinger.