Senior Salute: Men's basketball to honor 3 seniors in game against Ole Miss
By Sean Landry | 03/02/2015 11:45pm
CW | Pete Pajor
Dakota Slaughter, a walk-on senior majoring in marketing from Fishers, Indiana, has had his number called four times in the conference slate this season. The first time, in the conference opener against Texas A&M, Slaughter recorded a “trillion” – one minute played and no other statistics, which reads on the score sheet as 1 trillion.
The most recent time, Slaughter came on for seven minutes, got one chance to shoot, and drilled it, a shot from the left elbow with no hesitation, putting Alabama up 14-9. The Crimson Tide would go on to lose, but not for Slaughter’s lack of effort.
“He’s a guy that comes and works hard every day,” senior Levi Randolph said. “He always has a great attitude and stays positive. What I saw him do against Vanderbilt is what he does every day in practice. He comes, he’s prepared when he has the opportunity, he shoots the ball very well in practice. I wasn’t surprised at all when he knocked that three down.”
For four years, Slaughter has been on the floor, if not on the court, at every Alabama game, leading bench celebrations, serving as a kind of “hype-man” for the team – appropriate for a player who tweets rap lyrics every morning and once made a music video about the intricacies of inventory management for an accounting class.
Against Ole Miss tonight, in what will likely be the seniors’ last game in Coleman Coliseum, Slaughter will see some playing time. He won’t leave Coleman Coliseum with his name in any record books, but Alabama coach Anthony Grant said Slaughter’s four-year commitment to the team can’t be understated.
“He’s a young man that came here from Indiana on an academic scholarship,” Grant said. “He played high school football and basketball. He decided that he wanted to come to Alabama just to go to school. Once he got here, he realized that he missed competitive sports. He decided to come and be a walk-on for us on the basketball team. That’s the time he decided to join us, mid-semester of his freshman year. He’s been an integral part of our team, from just what he provides for us on a daily basis. He has character, leadership and he’s been a tremendous asset to our team.”
One of the Alabama basketball team’s seniors is all-business.
In most interviews, Rodney Cooper doesn’t have much to say. He leaves that to his longtime teammate Randolph and to Grant. He does his work on the court, where he’s the second-leading scorer and top three-point and free-throw shooter. Last season, he led Alabama in rebounds. On Feb. 17, Cooper was one of the players who powered Alabama’s comeback at rival Auburn.
“I feel like it’s a blessing to play here,” Cooper said. “Like Levi 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.”
Cooper has made much of his opportunity and still has more to go. He passed the 1000-point mark this season and with 12 more points, will pass former player and coach Mark Gottfried for 46th on the all-time scoring list with 1,057 career points. With seven more rebounds, he’ll hit the 500 mark.
“For these two guys [Cooper and Randolph], they played together in AAU,” Grant said. “They’ve been really good friends, prior to coming to Alabama. They kind of made the decision to come here together. Coop has been a guy, from day one, who has been an integral part of our team, in terms of playing time and the opportunities to affect winning. As a senior, I think he’s having his best campaign in the four years that he’s been here. I think he’s had an outstanding year for us. I think he has grown as a player, in terms of affecting the games in a lot of ways. He’ll have opportunities, once he’s done here, to keep on playing.”
One of Alabama’s seniors is everything people expect from a four-year starter and senior.
Levi Randolph is the team’s leading scorer and assist man and second on the team for rebounds and steals. He’s the team captain, the first since Alonzo Gee in 2009. He’s played 130 consecutive games, starting 115 times. He has never missed a game.
Off the court, his record is even more impressive. Randolph graduated from Alabama’s business school early and is working on his master’s degree in marketing. He’s the only Academic All-American in program history.
“With Levi, we found out last week that he’s the first Academic All-American for Alabama basketball,” Grant said. “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. 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 and Randolph chose Alabama together, coming from the same AAU team. When they, along with Slaughter, leave Alabama this season, they’ll take the team’s only NCAA tournament experience with them. They’ll leave behind a legacy that both said they hope extends to a reputation off the court.
“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.”
Alabama tips off against Ole Miss at Coleman Coliseum on at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.