2017-18 SEC Player Preview: Donta Hall

In Features by Mitchell Smilie

At times this offseason, Donta Hall feels like the forgotten man when discussing the 2017-18 Alabama men’s basketball team.

Perhaps that should be expected for a team that returns its top three scorers from last season (Braxton Key, Dazon Ingram and Riley Norris), while adding a top 10 recruiting class headlined by marquee freshmen, Collin Sexton and John Petty.

And yet, Hall could be the x-factor for a team with legitimate SEC title hopes this upcoming season.

Possessing a high motor, length and athleticism, Hall’s primary role has been as a rim protector (1.5 blocks per game in two seasons), rebounder (4.9 per game in two seasons) and highlight reel dunker to this point in his career.

But down the stretch of last season, Hall began to show signs of development on the offensive end of the floor, most notably in the form of a hook shot, along with improved hand and foot work in the post.

It’s that continued development that will not only serve this Alabama team’s interests, but Hall’s professional aspirations as well.

Inside the Numbers

Hall’s numbers rose across the board from his freshman to sophomore seasons, be it points (2.8 to 6.0), rebounds (4.3 to 5.5), field goal percentage (60.7 percent to 65.8 percent) or free throws (43.2 percent to 60.0 percent).

One interesting note is that he only averaged 3.5 field goal attempts per game last season. Making 65.8% of those shots leads one to believe that perhaps Hall should have been more involved on offense, particularly for an Alabama team that finished at or near the bottom of the conference in most offensive stats.

With the returning players and an influx of incoming players expected to boost Alabama’s offense, shots may once again be hard for Hall to find, but just having an option to run offense through the interior, creating a true inside/outside balance, would be embraced by this Bama coaching staff.

What They’re Saying

“They can all move. They can get up and down the floor. They can all rebound the basketball and are pretty good pick-and-roll defenders.

Daniel (Giddens) and Donta give us a lot of muscle inside and hopefully we’ll be able to finish around the basket better than we did last year.”

– Alabama coach Avery Johnson when asked about Hall and the Crimson Tide’s frontcourt development on the Marching to Madness podcast

Analysis

At the end of the day, though, I don’t believe the coaching staff is expecting Hall (or frontcourt mate, Daniel Giddens) to carry the scoring load.

More important will be their play on the defensive end: blocking shots, rebounding, and maintaining that physical presence we’ve come to expect of Avery Johnson’s teams.

Rebounding was a key stat in Alabama’s success last season. The Tide were the third best rebounding team in the league, led in large part by departed senior Bola Olaniyan, who led the team in rebounds, and was one of the most efficient offensive rebounders in the country.

Hall was among the top ten most efficient rebounders in the league last season as well, but he will be counted on to produce even more with Olaniyan moving on.

Hall also has the potential to become an elite shot blocker in this league. His block numbers dipped slightly last season, down to 1.4 after averaging 1.7 as a freshman, but he’s capable of more.

“He’s capable of more” would be the tagline if Donta Hall was a movie. He’s capable of more on the offensive end, the defensive end, as a rebounder and a leader.

And this Alabama team will need more from Donta Hall if they are to make this season truly special.

Born and raised in the great state of Alabama. Currently lost in the wilds of Austin, Texas. I’ve been a SEC basketball enthusiast for a little over a decade so consider me stricken with SEC basketball fever.