Alabama senior point guard Trevor Releford has a request for Saturday, when the Crimson Tide rolls into Mizzou Arena for a 1 p.m. tipoff against Missouri.
“I need somebody to bring me Gates Bar-B-Q or Oklahoma Joe’s definitely,” said Releford, a Bishop Miege graduate and former All-Metro player of the year selected by The Star.
Perhaps one of the 30 to 40 family and friends who he estimates will make the trek from Kansas City to Columbia can accommodate Releford’s craving.
The barbecue is what Releford misses most about his hometown — other than his family and friends — after spending four years in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he has established himself as one of the Southeastern Conference’s best players.
“Every year being in the league, he’s added something to his game,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “Right now, from an offensive standpoint, he’s added more of a consistent perimeter shot, which is obviously forcing opponents to play him differently.”
Not that opponents have had much luck. Releford dropped a season-high 34 points on UCLA on Dec. 28 at Pauley Pavilion and scored 28 on Wednesday in a 19-point win against Mississippi State.
Releford is the conference’s active career scoring leader with 1,582 points, which is 436 more than second-place Andre Stringer of LSU. He also leads current SEC players with 341 career assists and 232 steals and ranks 10th with 363 rebounds.
He ranks fourth in the SEC at 18.9 points per game. He also ranks second nationally in free-throw shooting at 93.1 percent and is 13th in the nation in steals, averaging 2.53 per game.
Now, he’s eager to showcase the improvements he’s made in his game for a pocket of hometown fans one final time.
“It’s my last time playing this close to home,” Releford said. “I can’t wait to play in front of my mom and all that. It’s one of the games she gets to come to every year being so close to home. I’m excited to play.”
Across the board — scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and even blocks — Releford’s numbers are up, and in some cases way up, compared with his junior season.
“He’s understanding the game better,” Grant said. “He came in and had a big impact on our team from the time he stepped on campus, but just the understanding from an offensive and defensive standpoint of what allows us to be successful (has improved).
“He’s always been a great competitor, but I think his leadership is because of his approach to the game and his work ethic. He’s a type of guy that gives your team confidence when he’s on the floor, because he’s going to compete to win.”
Releford, who is majoring in consumer affairs and is on track to graduate in the spring, worked hard in the offseason to drop 10 or 15 pounds.
“It’s allowed me to play more minutes,” Releford said. “My speed is pretty much the same, but my endurance over the game allows me to play at a high level for longer than I could last year. That’s helped a lot.”
So, maybe the barbecue isn’t such a great idea.