Guard Mark Sears announced on Tuesday that he would be returning to play another season for Alabama Basketball. This was huge news for Coach Nate Oats and company, who lost several key players to the NBA Draft and the NCAA transfer portal this offseason.
Most recently, Bama was hit with the surprising announcement that starting center Charles Bediako would remain in the draft. While answers are certainly needed in the frontcourt, Sears’ return potentially solidifies one of the best backcourts in college hoops.
Oats has always managed to put together elite collections of guards during his time in Tuscaloosa, and 2023-24 could be his best group yet.
Alabama Basketball: Impact of Sears’ return
Mark Sears is a Muscle Shoals native that made a big impact last season after transferring in from Ohio. Sears started all 37 games for Alabama, averaging 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. For the season, he shot just under 35 percent from the three-point line and just under 85 percent from the free-throw line.
After a year of experience playing at the SEC level, it’s reasonable to assume that Sears could make a jump heading into next season. He put up respectable numbers in 2022-23 despite disappearing for long stretches of play, and sometimes entire games. Sears had eight games in which he scored six or fewer points last year, all coming in SEC play or in the NCAA Tournament. Four of these outings came in the postseason.
Sears’ inconsistent play was excusable at times last season considering the amount of offensive firepower Bama had, but there will certainly be more responsibility on his shoulders this season. If he is able to improve his consistency and eliminate those no-show games, his numbers could put him in the first team All-SEC conversation.
Mark Sears will be joined in the backcourt by two incoming transfers that are taking a similar path to his own. Hofstra product Aaron Estrada and Cal State Fullerton’s Latrell Wrightsell Jr. are both joining Alabama Basketball from the mid-major ranks and hope to make an impact.
I think both are quality SEC guards, but Estrada has the ceiling to be one of the best scorers in the country. It’s easy to visualize him playing a role reminiscent of former Alabama guard (and fellow southpaw) Jaden Shackelford.
Bama is still awaiting the official decision of another All-SEC caliber guard in Jahvon Quinerly, but Coach Oats has said that he expects Quinerly to return as well. The deadline for this decision is today, Wednesday, May 31st.
Although Bama will continue to search for last-minute frontcourt options, its backcourt should be talented, experienced, and deep.