Hale, Taylor sign with Tide in early period

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Shannon Hale celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, but his best gift didn’t come until Wednesday when he signed his national letter of intent to play basketball for the University of Alabama.

“It was exciting,” Hale said. “It was a pretty good feeling to sign those papers. It’s also a little bit of a relief to have it behind me and to make it official now.

“The coaches were pretty happy for me. They called me to wish me a happy birthday yesterday, and we just talked about signing today. They sounded like they were pretty excited to have me.”

Hale, a 6-foot-8 forward from Johnson City, Tenn., joins 6-foot-10 big man Jimmie Taylor (Greensboro, Ala./Greensboro), who also signed with the Crimson Tide on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period in college basketball.

“I’m very excited,” Taylor said. “It will be a total relief that my recruitment is completely finished. I can now focus more on playing on the next level.”

Hale and Taylor were roommates this summer at both the Amare Stoudemire Skills Academy and the LeBron James Skills Academy. The two future Alabama teammates developed a close bond off the court and also learned how to play together on the court.

“Me and Jimmie are real close,” Hale said. “Out there at Amare and LeBron, we got to know each other a little bit better over the summer. Getting to play with him is going to be great. He’s a great big man, and I feel like me and him will have a great feel on the floor together.”

After signing the No. 13 class in 2011 and adding ESPN 100 forward Devonta Pollard last year, Alabama already has a bright future. Taylor hopes he and Hale can help bolster the front court and give the Tide that extra lift in order to win the SEC.

“I say the team can be more solid with us on the inside because as of right now, there isn’t much depth in the post,” Taylor said. “We will be a great threat to Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt in the SEC. One of my goals is to win the SEC.”

The two big men are the only early signees for Alabama, but Hale indicated that the staff was looking to bring in at least one more piece in the late signing period.