Former JD star Walker waiting for debut with Crimson Tide
By Tim Gayle
The date is circled on the calendar: Dec. 17, 2 p.m., Coleman Coliseum.
The Alabama women’s basketball team makes its official debut on Friday with a game against Alabama A&M at Coleman Coliseum, but head coach Kristy Curry would be quick to mention that Dec. 17 game against Southern Methodist as well.
That’s because that day will mark the Crimson Tide debut of Jasmine Walker.
The former Jeff Davis standout, the 2016 Miss Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year, initially signed with Florida State out of high school but elected to transfer last year after spending a year with the Seminoles. As a mid-year transfer, she will not be eligible to play until Dec. 17.
“I think she’ll be an impact,” Curry predicted. “The thing is, she’s a freshman, basically, so she just needs some experience. But she’s one of the hardest working players in practice. We always say minutes are earned in practice and if we were tipping off today, she would play minutes and make an impact. She is so much fun to coach.”
What makes Curry’s statement even more impactful is the fact she’ll have to send one of her returning starters to the bench to make room for Walker. Alabama returns its entire squad from last season, including starting seniors Quanetria “NeNe” Bolton and Hannah Cook, junior Shaquera Wade and sophomores Ashley Knight and Jordan Lewis, along with fifth-year senior Ashley Williams and the rest of Curry’s initial signing class: Alana Da Silva, Coco Knight and Meoshonti Knight.
That’s why Curry is so optimistic about the Tide reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.
“That’s what we feel like this team was designed to do, to compete for an opportunity to win an SEC championship and to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time in 19 years,” she said. “We feel like we’ve taken the steps necessary. We return more points than anyone in the SEC, return everyone along with four new faces.
“We enter the year with great optimism and great excitement.”
“The thing is, it’s a huge statement that she believes in this program,” Curry said, “that Alabama basketball is a great place to be and we’re going to make it special again. I think she’s a kid that wants to be first and that says a lot about her. We’re keeping them at home. It’s because of Nini Bolton and Shaquera Wade and now Jasmine Walker has put the exclamation point on that.”
The early signing period, which opens today, is expected to land the Crimson Tide the junior college player of the year and two more in-state players who have played on state championship teams: Shelton State’s Cierra Johnson, who initially signed with Alabama in 2016 out of Blount, along with Allie Craig-Cruce and Hannah Barber.
“It’s huge,” Curry said. “If it’s good enough for Jasmine Walker, it can be good enough for me. Great players want to play with one another, so that’s just been huge for us. And moving to Coleman Coliseum (sends a message that) women’s basketball at Alabama is very important and it’s very important to Jasmine.”
Walker, meanwhile, is working hard in preparation for her Dec. 17 debut.
“The way we’re practicing right now is no different than the way we’ll be practicing then,” Curry said. “We’re acting as if she’s going to play on Nov. 10.”
Alabama opens its season on Friday at home against Alabama A&M. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.