A Fond Farewell to Alabama’s Trevor RelefordPosted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on March 10th, 2014
“Trevor’s going to be the next biggest star. In my book, it was Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and then there will be Trevor Releford.” Those words were spoken three years ago by an understandably gigantic fan of Releford, his mother Venita Vann. The Alabama senior hasn’t lived to his mom’s lofty standards, but you can count on one finger the current players who have. Instead, this week in Atlanta, Releford will wrap an incredibly accomplished college basketball career. It will probably be an especially sentimental moment for Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant, since Releford was one of his first major recruits and a constant bright spot in this year’s frustrating season.
On November 12, 2010, Releford became only the fourth freshman point guard to start a season opener in Alabama history, joining a list that includes former Tide greats Mo Williams and Ronald Steele. He played only a bit part that night in a win over Florida A&M (five points and three assists), but would play a bigger role as his freshman season advanced. Releford posted solid numbers (11.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, 56.7% TS) en route to a spot on the all-SEC rookie team that year. His assist numbers would never be that high again as he assumed a bigger scoring load in Grant’s offense, but he continually improved throughout his career. After being a dismal three-point shooter during his first two years (27.6% 3FG) he was able to increase that by leaps and bounds over his final two season (40.1% 3FG). And he did all of this without sacrificing his slippery way of making tough shots around the basket at a height (realistically) shorter than six feet. It culminated in spot on the all-SEC second team in 2011-12 and the first team in 2012-13.
Releford didn’t lack for the dramatic either. His game-winning half-court heave against Georgia last season had to be one of the craziest shots of 2012-13. And he didn’t disappoint in 2013-14, hitting another game-winning three against Ole Miss that was far enough behind the line to probably get a reluctant thumbs-up from Marshall Henderson. Despite those thrilling shots, what I will remember most about Releford is how he led the Tide through a frustrating campaign this year. There were reasonable NCAA Tournament expectations after a 12-6 SEC record last year and with most main contributors coming back. But for various reasons, the offseason swept away Trevor Lacey (transfer), Moussa Gueye (transfer), and Devonta Pollard (bizarre, troubling kidnapping charge). That turned out to be a precursor to a non-conference season full of close losses to good teams, and snowballed into a losing SEC season.
The Tide will end up with their first losing SEC campaign in 14 years, but Releford didn’t give up. From afar, his body language always seemed positive, and he had seven 20+ point games in SEC play. “In the years past, I probably would have just saw the losses and put my head down and not keep working,” Releford said. “But this year I pushed through and I realized that we are having a losing season right now, but there’s more to it. It’s getting ready for life.” He put up his seventh 20-point game with a 24-point spoiler performance on Saturday against Arkansas. As damaging as the game was for the Hogs’ fading NCAA Tournament hopes, it was a fitting end for a player that has already racked up a whole bunch of accolades. He has scored the most points of any player in the Rivals top 100 of his class (Shabazz Napier is second), and more importantly, has put his name in the Alabama record books. He is the program’s career steals leader and ranks fifth (1,862 points) on the all-time career scoring list. Where he ranks next to the Tide’s program greats is certainly up for debate, but he deserves a spot in the discussion. Farewell, Trevor Releford. It would be just fine if you have one more half-court heave up your sleeve, perhaps as soon as this weekend.