Alabama Basketball: Does Nate Oats have his big?

Oakland v Kentucky
Oakland v Kentucky / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Alabama Basketball has been surging in recent weeks due to the transfer portal and recruiting exploits of Coach Nate Oats and his staff. The general consensus is that Bama is only missing an impactful big man heading into 2024-25.

The Crimson Tide have pursued several bigs, and most recently hosted former Rutgers center Clifford Omoruyi. The point remains that Omoruyi would be a great fit, but he is one of the most highly sought-after players in the portal and has a lot of high-caliber suitors. While Bama is clearly in the mix, another big man might beat Omoruyi to the punch. 

Alabama has recently been tabbed as the favorite to land Kentucky transfer Ugonna Onyenso. Onyenso was a top-40 recruit coming out of high school, falling just outside of 5-star classification in the class of 2022. The 7-footer played limited minutes in two seasons with the Wildcats, but made a big jump in his production in 2023-24. 

This past season, Onyenso started 14 games for Kentucky while battling injuries and splitting time with two other 7-footers. He averaged just 3.6 points per game on 55 percent shooting from the field, but Onyenso’s impact is primarily felt on the defensive end of the floor. He posted 4.8 rebounds and an absurd 2.8 blocks per game in less than 19 minutes of playing time. 

His best game this season was easily a 13-point, 16-rebound, and 8-block outing against Florida. He also had 10 blocks in a win over Ole Miss, and posted four or more blocks in five other games. In addition to being an elite shot-blocker, Onyenso has shown the ability to defend the basket without fouling. Though his minutes were limited to a degree, he never fouled out and reached four fouls just one time in 40 appearances with the Wildcats.

As a rim protector, he is even better than Charles Bediako, who some tout as the missing piece that stood between Alabama and a potential national title this past season. In fact, Onyenso has the ceiling to be the best shot-blocker Alabama has had in a long time.

If it comes to fruition, this will be yet another massive pickup for Nate Oats and company.