Nate Oats explains strategy behind not filling 13th scholarship

Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats revealed last week the Crimson Tide doesn’t plan on filling its last available scholarship for the 2022-23 season. That leaves some wondering why not try to fill that 13th spot with a transfer, but Oats explained the strategy behind that.

“The strategy is there’s nobody out there good enough that we want,” said Oats in an interview on The Next Round. “We’re not gonna burn it up on somebody just to burn it up. I mean, we kind of swung for some guys in the portal, and honestly, we don’t have holes, I feel like, on the team. If there’s like maybe best available that we could have got that would have really helped us, but right now, there’s just nobody that we feel like would move the needle enough.

“I was a high school coach for 11 years, and I try to look out for guys. When my high school players went somewhere and the coaches didn’t look out for them, I’d get upset. I don’t want to bring a kid in here that’s a transfer that’s expecting to play significant minutes and we just can’t give him the minutes. If you go through our roster, we don’t have too many holes. Now, I’m not saying that means we’re gonna win X number of games or all that, but we’re not missing any one position, like, drastically with a huge hole there.

“So unless they were just that good to really move the needle a lot, I’m not gonna screw a kid, bring him in here, play five minutes a game. I just don’t think it’s right to do that to a kid just to have security in your roster and use all the spots.”

The Crimson Tide welcomed back five players from last year’s team in guards Jahvon Quinerly and Nimari Burnett, forwards Noah Gurley and Darius Miles and center Charles Bediako. UA will be without Quinerly for the start of the season due to an ACL injury he suffered in the team’s final game of the 2021-22 campaign. Burnett will be healthy after missing last year.

The Tide also signed the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite. The class was headlined by 5-stars and McDonald’s All-Americans Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley, as well as Top100 prospects Rylan Griffin and Noah Clowney and junior college transfer Nick Pringle, bringing the scholarship total to 10 – or three below the limit.

After the season, Oats and company used the NCAA transfer portal to fill two more spots with two junior guards – Ohio Mark Sears and St. Bonaventure grad student Dominick Welch.

Oats shared what he likes about Sears and Welch, the most recent additions to the roster.

“First off, they’re both experienced, they’ve played,” Oats said. “I didn’t think we had enough point guard-type play last year. We really only had two guys with Quinerly and JD. Quinerly gets hurt in the last game against Notre Dame and really forced JD to play the whole game. Just with the way we play, we’re better off with multiple point guard types, multiple playmakers, creators.

“I think Sears is a guy that can really shoot. He shot 42 percent from three at Ohio. He’s played significant minutes. He’s one of the best, if not the best, player in that league, and that’s a good league. I came from that league. And he’s a kid from Alabama that really wants to be on the Alabama team. Like we want guys – if they’re good enough and they wanna be at Alabama, we’re gonna bring them here. Sears has been great so far. We’ve had skill instruction this summer. We’ve worked our guys out.

“Dom Welch is a kid that I watched play in high school in Buffalo. He’s right from Buffalo. I saw him put 45 up in a high school game. He’s a wing with size that can make shots. In the three years I’ve been here at Alabama, we’ve been first, third and sixth in threes taken per game, so we’re gonna take a lot of threes. This year, we were 333rd in 3-point percentage. So if you’re gonna be top five in the country in threes taken per game, let’s get somebody that can make some shots from three.

“So Dom Welch is, I think, a career 37 percent 3-point shooter. He would have led our team last year. Sears was 42 percent. He would have led our team by a long shot. So we brought some shooting in. They can both make shots and they both played a lot of college games and have a lot of experience and they’ve won at a high level. st. Bonaventure was top 25 with Dom there. He started for four years there.”

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