Alabama Basketball coach Nate Oats is one of the nation’s best at piecing together a roster using every resource at his disposal.
Oats has recruited the high school ranks very well during his time in Tuscaloosa. He has landed four straight top-20 classes, including a top-5 class in 2022.
Oats has also done well pulling talent from the NCAA transfer portal as well as the JUCO ranks. In fact, he has made a living during his time at Alabama recruiting low to mid-major players out of the portal and developing them into SEC-caliber players.
Prior to Alabama, Oats was very successful at Buffalo in the MAC, so he understands the quality of talent that can fly under the radar at that level.
Last season, Oats brought in Mark Sears from Ohio University. Sears was a first team All-MAC selection at Ohio as a sophomore, and translated well to the high-major game.
He came in and made an immediate impact, starting all 37 games for Alabama Basketball and averaging 12.5 points per game. Sears is a preseason second-team All-SEC selection heading into his senior year.
Last year’s squad also consisted of veteran reserves such as forward Noah Gurley (previously of Furman) and wing Dom Welch (St. Bonaventure).
In the 2023 offseason, Coach Oats went back to work in the portal, poaching several standouts from smaller schools.
Guards Aaron Estrada (Hofstra) and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. (Cal-State Fullerton), as well as forward Grant Nelson (North Dakota State), are all expected to play major roles for Alabama Basketball in the 2023-24 season.
In addition to Sears and forward Nick Pringle, formerly of Wofford and Dodge City Community College, Bama could very easily have lineups consisting solely of former mid-major players.
Is this cause for concern?
I don’t believe so, given that Oats has such a knack for roster construction. He tends to only grab the best players from smaller schools, late-bloomers that were probably destined to be at power conference schools anyway.
Additionally, Oats always manages to pair these savvy transfers with high-upside talent from the more traditional recruiting avenues. Last season, he hit the jackpot with his high school recruiting class, landing two first-round draft picks in Brandon Miller and Noah Clowney.
Although they may not reach that lofty bar, this year’s freshmen class has a lot of potential in its own right. 5-star forward Jarin Stevenson reclassified to join the Crimson Tide this winter, and will be joined by a pair of rangy wings.
Sam Walters was the surprise star of Alabama’s secret scrimmage, shooting the lights out and racking up 29 points. Fellow freshman Kris Parker has drawn comparisons from Nate Oats himself to former Alabama Basketball standout and current New Orleans Pelicans wing Herb Jones.
This trio, a lot like last year’s freshmen, will give Alabama a lot of length, versatility, and athleticism in the frontcourt. Two more freshmen, guard Davin Cosby Jr. and forward Mouhamed Dioubate, could factor in as well.
While it could be argued that Coach Oats has been overly-reliant on mid-major transfers, his eye for talent cannot be questioned. I fully believe that he has once again constructed a roster that can compete for the SEC title.