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‘Bama guard Cotton settling into his role

• The junior had his ups and downs before going to the Crimson Tide this year.

STEVE RIVERA Citizen Sportswriter

Alabama guard Schea Cotton experienced McKale Center’s wrath when he saw his older brother, James, lose to Arizona as a member of Long Beach State’s team.

Then again, Cotton as seen a number of campus arenas as one of college basketball’s most sought-after recruits. He committed to several schools before settling on Alabama.

”It’s extremely loud,” Cotton said about McKale. He’s in Tucson this time to play for his Crimson Tide in the Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic.

Alabama plays Delaware in the tournament’s first game. Tipoff is at 5:15 p.m.

”I don’t know how long it was before Long Beach scored that night (in 1995). They (fans) were just screaming. We have to be ready for that crowd. Hopefully, we get past Delaware to get ready for Arizona. But we have to take it one game at a time.”

The 6-foot-6 guard has had a whirlwind career.

At the end of the 1996-97 season, he was one of the top five high school basketball players in the country. Arizona was one of many schools he was thinking of attending.

Cotton chose UCLA, but just a week before classes were to start at Westwood, his SAT score was disallowed because the NCAA ruled Cotton had improperly received special accommodations during the three times he had taken the test.

He then went to a prep school in New England, and the recruiting process started over. After a stint at Long Beach City Junior College last season, he apparently committed to North Carolina State, only to hear the NCAA had invalidated his test scores again.

The NCAA ruled him eligible later in the season, and he chose Alabama after being wooed by nearly every name school out there.

”It was a different experience,” Cotton said of his ordeal. ”I’m glad it’s behind me now. I can get on with my life at the University of Alabama and make the best of the situation.”

Alabama (6-4) apparently is the place for him.

He leads the team in scoring (14 per game) and is second in rebounding (6). More important, he’s comfortable.

”It’s been a good experience,” he said of Alabama. ”Life has been a bit different. I don’t have time to think about what I’m missing at home, which is good.”

There’s no one pestering him for tickets, and he can concentrate on playing and studying.

”Now I’m just trying to blend in, trying to enjoy my college experience, play as hard as I can and get better every day.”

When Arizona was recruiting Cotton, UA coach Lute Olson called him ”a tremendous talent.”

”I’m sure it’s been disruptive to him,” Olson said of Cotton’s missed time because of NCAA concerns. ”And I’m sure it’s been a frustrating time. Basketball is a game of continuity, and he hasn’t experienced continuity. It’s hard to be a consistent player with that type of experience.”

Although Cotton, 21, is only a sophomore, he is the most veteran player at Alabama. The Tide starts four freshman and may be the youngest team in Division I.

”It works hand in hand because we feed off each other,” Cotton said of helping his teammates and them helping him. ”I try to talk to the freshman and help them out if I see something that can make them better. It works both ways. They might voice their opinion to me about things.”

Whatever works.

”He’s a very unselfish player, and I think he’s a terrific scorer,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. ”Sometimes when guys are scorers they don’t see themselves as the defensive stoppers. But he could be one of the best defensive players in the country.”


A look at the whirlwind career of 6foot-6 guard Schea Cotton, Alabama’s leading scorer at 14 points a game:

• Subject of Sports Illustrated story as an eighth-grader.

• Started his freshman and sophomore years at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif.; transferred to St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif., for his junior and senior years.

• Signed with UCLA in 1997 but NCAA declared him ineligible.

• Played at St. Thomas More in Oakdale, Conn., during 1997-98.

• Played at Long Beach City Junior College last season for Gary Anderson, Ricky Anderson’s father, before transferring to Alabama.

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