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Alabama basketball remains mired in mediocrity, but these seniors should be appreciated

Rodney Cooper, Levi Randolph and Dakota Slaughter say goodbye to Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday.
Rodney Cooper, Levi Randolph and Dakota Slaughter say goodbye to Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday.

TUSCALOOSA,Ala.–Alabama has faced some tough times during this year’s men’s basketball season, but that was temporarily forgotten on Tuesday night, if only for a moment.

Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper and Dakota Slaughter were honored before the team’s 82-74 loss to Ole Miss, their final regular season home game, and their recognition was warranted. Even though these seniors only reached the NCAA tournament once, the impact they have had on the program is worth celebrating.

(Video below: Alabama celebrates Senior Night in front of a sparse crowd)

After point guard Trevor Releford graduated, Randolph became the de facto leader of the team and the most recognizable player on the court for the Tide. Randolph, the captain of this year’s squad, never missed a single game for Alabama, playing in 131 consecutive games, starting 116 of them.

Against Ole Miss on Senior Night, Randolph led all scorers with 32 points — one point away from his career high — and he shot a perfect 17-of-17 from the free throw line, which is an Alabama record. Even with Alabama surrendering yet another lead for a loss, Randolph never stopped fighting for points, taking responsibility of carrying the team yet again.

Randolph has scored more than 1,000 points during his career and is also the team’s first ever Academic All-American.

“I think it speaks volumes for what he’s been able to accomplish over his four years, not only as a player, but in the classroom,” Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. “I think he’s only gotten better in his time here. He’s certainly been a tremendously valuable asset to our team, for his entire career.”

Cooper played AAU basketball with Randolph growing up and the two chose to attend Alabama as a mutual decision. Like Randolph, Cooper has surpassed the 1,000-point scoring mark, needs just seven rebounds to hit 500, and has been a staple on Alabama’s lineup during his tenure at the school. He had 13 points in Tuesday’s loss against Ole Miss.

“You’re talking about two guys that are over 1,000-point scorers,” Grant said. “Their impact on our team has been tremendous. I think both of them will have opportunities to continue their careers, once they’re done here.”

Slaughter started on the team as a walk-on, was eventually given a scholarship, and has become an emotional leader for the team. He doesn’t play very often — sometimes amassing playing time one minute per game — but he makes up for it in enthusiasm. Slaughter, wearing his trademark mask, started for Senior Night and had eight points, again serving as a driving force for the team.

“He’s been an integral part of our team, from just what he provides for us on a daily basis,” Grant said. “He has character, leadership and he’s been a tremendous asset to our team.”

Alabama sits at 17-13 overall and 7-10 in conference play this season, the second consecutive season in which the team finished with a losing record against the SEC. With one game remaining before the SEC tournament, the team is hoping for a berth in the NIT, not the NCAA Tournament, and the Crimson Tide and its fans sit at another point of contention with Grant. But that’s not the purpose of Senior Night.

While the team is sometimes mired in mediocrity, giving hope then swiftly letting it slip away like it did again in the Ole Miss loss, they still fight for games and remain competitive through the adversity, which is a testament to these seniors.

Randolph, Cooper and Slaughter deserved to be celebrated and remembered for their efforts, their play and their dedication.

“I feel like it’s a blessing to play here,” Cooper said. “We just want to leave our legacy here. We want to place a footprint on this university. It’s just a blessing to have this opportunity.”

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