What do backcourt additions mean for Mark Sears?

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - Final Four
NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - Final Four / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

Alabama Basketball has added a lot of backcourt talent this spring, perhaps in anticipation of a Mark Sears departure. However, the All-American guard from Muscle Shoals could still return to the team after testing the NBA Draft waters. What will the backcourt look like with and without Sears?

Though Mark Sears can play the point, his skill set is more so that of an off-ball guard. Sears is an elite scorer who will thrive alongside a true point guard. The Crimson Tide added two lead guards in Auburn transfer Aden Holloway and Kansas decommit Labaron Philon. Though their games are very different, these are two former 5-star recruits who should only make each other better. 

Point Guard

Early expectations are that Holloway will start at point guard, given that he has a year of SEC experience under his belt. He should be more efficient as a scorer heading into his sophomore season, and is already very good at taking care of the ball and running a team. At their best, Holloway and Sears are a near-perfect backcourt pairing. Add in Philon off the bench, and this group goes to another level. 

Labaron Philon brings a different dynamic to this backcourt. While Holloway and Sears are both around 6’0”, Philon is a rangy 6’4”. Dominant at the high school level, he will be a plus athlete in college and it will be very difficult to stop him from getting to the rim. Philon is a downhill driver who puts pressure on defenses both in transition and in the halfcourt, and he should give Nate Oats the option to put three ball-handlers on the floor in certain situations. 

Should Mark Sears depart, there will be added pressure on these two young players to run the team. Latrell Wrightsell adds a veteran presence to the backcourt and would likely see some on-ball minutes in this case.

Shooting Guard

At the 2-guard position, Alabama has two veteran shooters in returnee Latrell Wrightsell and South Florida transfer Chris Youngblood. It also brings in Pepperdine transfer Houston Mallette, another lights out shooter who could factor in at the 2-guard spot if Sears stays in the draft. At 6'5", Mallette projects more as a three, especially if Sears comes back.

The 2-guard is the position that is most likely to get crowded if Sears returns, but Coach Oats will have a lot of flexibility to go with three-guard lineups.

Wrightsell and Youngblood are too good to keep off the court, and one of them will probably play the three if Sears is back. There is even the possibility that Oats could go with a veteran lineup. In this scenario, Sears would play the one, Wrightsell the two, and Youngblood the three with the Tide’s electric young guards coming off the bench. 

The tandem of Latrell Wrightsell and Chris Youngblood might be what makes this a national championship caliber team. They are incredibly seasoned, with 225 career games and 187 starts between them. They provide a lot of backcourt versatility; though they are both shooting guards, Wrightsell handles the ball well enough to play the point in a pinch and Youngblood can masquerade as a forward at 6’4” and nearly 220 pounds. 

The most obvious trait that they bring to the table is knockdown shooting. Youngblood has hit a remarkable 270 career three-pointers on well over 39 percent. Wrightsell has hit 171 career triples in his own right, connecting on over 38 percent for his career and leading the Tide with a percentage of 44.7 last season. 

Both are also determined perimeter defenders, which will bring a different element to the Alabama Basketball team. With these two on the wings, Cliff Omoruyi protecting the basket, and the Tide’s athletic crop of freshmen coming in, the defensive woes should be a thing of the past.

Even without Mark Sears, Alabama boasts a quartet of guards that should be a top-notch SEC backcourt. It has experience, boundless shooting, and versatility on both ends of the floor. If Sears returns to Tuscaloosa, this might be the best backcourt in the nation. In Coach Nate Oats, Bama also has one of the best conductors in the sport to make all the pieces fit together.