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BIRMINGHAM – Jordan ‘Jelly’ Walker hit his opening 3-pointer in UAB’s 98-47 exhibition victory over Mississippi College on Tuesday night at Bartow Arena.

The Blazers spent the rest of the night figuring out how they were going to split up the scoring. At times, the deep roster looked comfortable sharing the basketball. At other times, it looked like one basketball might not be enough.

Time will solve that dilemma. What’s important, heading into the season, is that Andy Kennedy and his coaching staff have plenty of options. Eleven of the 12 scholarship players got on the floor by the time the first half concluded. The other one — true freshman Efrem ‘Butta’ Johnson — came in the game with 14 minutes remaining and made an impact the rest of the way, contributing seven points, two assists and a blocked shot.  

How much quality depth does this team appear to have? So much that KJ Buffen, who started 33 games for last season’s NCAA Tournament team, was the 10th player in the game for the Blazers on Tuesday night.

“You can’t play this many guys,” Kennedy said. “You try to, but, at the end of the day, we’ve got to settle in on a rotation. Some guys have got to get separation. We see what we see in practice, but when you get in game situations, it’s different. I’m trying to give them opportunities, but this thing will tighten up pretty quickly. I thought we got great minutes from our bench.”

Five players scored in double figures with Eric Gaines and Ledarrius Brewer leading the way with 14 points each. Walker had 13 points and Trey Jemison and Ty Brewer each had 11 points. Jemison added 12 rebounds, five of the team’s 12 blocked shots, and two steals.

It was the first chance for the UAB fans to see Gaines on the court. The LSU transfer was 6-of-7 from the floor and he contributed three rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots. He also turned the ball over three times. His dunk in the second half, when he split two players before getting to the rim, might have been the individual highlight of the game.

“Eric Gaines is a talent, [but] we got to get him to tighten up, he’s awfully loose with that ball,” Kennedy said. “But the dunk in the second half, he can get a shot whenever he wants, the blocked shots, his hands are all over the place. Him and Jelly together can be pretty exciting. We’re a work in progress, as many teams are at this stage. We’re certainly in that category but I like the pieces we’re working with.”

UAB forced 21 turnovers and scored 29 points off the turnovers. The Blazers outscored the Choctaws, 52-32, in the paint and had 45 points from the bench. UAB had 20 assists on 37 made baskets and only one of the Blazers’ 13 turnovers came in the second half.  

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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