Steele: Coach misunderstood; return to school not certain

Updated: June 2, 2008, 9:40 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Alabama redshirt senior guard Ronald Steele said that coach Mark Gottfried misunderstood him when they spoke over the weekend and that he still intends to carry on with a few workouts before the June 16 deadline to withdraw from the draft.

"It was a mix-up," Steele said Monday night. "I can work out until the 16th, and a number of teams have called so I'm going to take those workouts and then make a decision."

Steele said he didn't know the teams yet, though, so he couldn't name them.

Reached earlier Monday, Gottfried said he was aware of Steele's decision to continue the draft process at least until the deadline.

Saturday night, Gottfried told ESPN.com that Steele had told him he was going to withdraw from the draft after a lackluster week at the pre-draft camp at Disney's Milk House.

At the time, Gottfried said that Steele had made a great decision and had gone about the process in an intelligent way. Gottfried said that Steele would be considered a first-round draft pick in 2009 and one of the top point guards in the country next season.

"I'm still in," Steele said of the draft. "I haven't withdrawn yet. I'm going to make a good decision and Orlando provided me with the opportunity to play with the best players, and I think I did fairly well and showed all of my skill set."

According to a number of NBA personnel, there may been one to three potential first-round picks playing at the camp. So, saying that he was playing against the best players is a relative characterization. The majority of players who competed are likely second-round picks, at best.

"I've had some views where they like me and are interested in inviting me for a workout," Steele said. "Some teams want to evaluate me directly before the deadline."

Getting Steele back would be a major coup for Alabama. He was an SEC first-team guard his sophomore season, averaging 15.9 points a game in SEC contests.

His numbers dipped a bit as a junior as he dealt with nagging knee injuries. Steele had surgery on both knees and then a follow-up surgery on his left knee. He practiced from January on, but sparingly. His absence was part of the reason the Tide finished 5-11 in the SEC and just 17-16 overall.

The hope is that Steele would return to his sophomore form and lead the Tide back to the NCAA tournament. Steele would be able to play with his younger brother, Andrew, who signed with Alabama for this season.

Gottfried still has to sweat out the June 16 deadline. Junior forward Richard Hendrix has to decide whether to stay in the draft. Hendrix made it clear Friday he wants to continue with the process and go through workouts before the deadline.

The Tide nearly lost a third starter to the draft when Alonzo Gee declared. But Gee didn't receive an invite to the pre-draft camp so he returned to school last week. The Tide signed power forward JaMychal Green, who could be an impact scorer next to Hendrix, or in place of him, next season.

Steele was one of 10 underclassmen still eligible to return to school who played at the camp.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE