- Feb 5, 2014
A lot has transpired since Alabama basketball’s memorable season came to an end last month.
Wednesday, the Crimson Tide added three new signees as recent commits Charles Bediako, Nimari Burnett and Noah Gurley all officially joined the program. That’s just the start of a busy offseason to come as Alabama will be tasked with paring down its currently oversized roster while hammering out a schedule.
Later in the day, head coach Nate Oats discussed those topics and others during a 26-minute Zoom call with reporters. Here’s a look at some of the offseason storylines addressed on the call.
Oats breaks down how Alabama will manage its roster
Oats calls it a “good problem to have,” but at the moment it’s still something Alabama will have to deal with over the next few weeks.
The Tide’s three additions Wednesday moved its scholarship count to 14 for the coming season, one over the NCAA limit. The need for a roster crunch would be even greater had signee Langston Wilson not asked for his release Monday.
Through a social media post, Wilson explained that decision was made after “long talks with the coaches and those within my inner circle.” It wouldn’t be surprising if one of those discussions was a difficult one with the Tide’s staff who advised him to look elsewhere due to its overstocked roster.
Wednesday, Oats explained that such conversations occurred last offseason as Alabama reshuffled its roster, bringing in Jordan Bruner, Keon Ellis, Darius Miles and Alex Tchikou while seeing Javian Davis , Galin Smith, Jaylen Forbes and Raymond Hawkins transfer out of the program. Overall, the head coach was pleased with how his staff dealt with the transition and is confident it can manage its roster situation again this year.
“I feel like we handled this right last year,” Oats said. “I think we’ve earned the right to let it play out and handle this. We sat down and had — some of these meetings are difficult meetings — but I think there’s certain players that are better served in a different program for their own personal good.
“I don’t have an answer yet as to who won’t be here next year, but it’s a good problem to have. It’s still an issue. We have to deal with it. It’s not fun all the time. ... We’ll be down to the number we need to be down to when it needs to be there.”
For the most part, the players who transferred out of Alabama’s program last offseason went on to better situations. Forbes transferred to Tulane where he led the Greenwave in points per game (16.4), rebounds per game (5.3), 3-point percentage (36.8) and minutes per game (36.1). Smith made way for Maryland where he recorded 17 starts over 31 appearances, averaging 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the floor. Davis went back to his home state where he made one start over 29 appearances, averaging 2.6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 11.7 minutes. Of the quartet, Hawkins was the only player not to feature at his new school.
Those success stories might prompt one of the Tide’s lesser-used options to make a switch this offseason. After all, given Alabama’s current abundance of talent, minutes won’t even be guaranteed to each of the members on the Tide’s final 13-man roster.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played 11, 12, 13 guys in a rotation and I don’t think that’s going to start [next season],” Oats said. “Maybe in some non-conference games we’ll be playing a lot more guys, just seeing what guys are able to do.”
Oats expects players to test NBA draft waters
Along with trying to pare down his roster, Oats also expects to deal with the uncertainty of underclassmen testing the NBA draft waters.
According to NCAA rules, underclassmen can apply for the draft one time without an agent and still return to school provided that they withdraw their name by the July 19 deadline. Last season, Alabama saw John Petty Jr. and Herbert Jones both dabble in the draft before electing to come back for their senior seasons. Wednesday, Oats said he wouldn’t be surprised if some of his players take advantage of the opportunity this offseason.
“I would expect some guys to,” Oats said. “Guys that are some of our better players that put up some good numbers, we’ve had some conversations. They’ve gotta put their name in. I’m not gonna go through and list everybody, but look at who put up some of our better numbers. To me, it probably makes sense to test the waters, get some feedback, and I don’t think it’s the worst thing either. I want guys that wanna be in the NBA. If you wanna be in the NBA, let’s get feedback from NBA people.”
For many players, applying for the draft without an agent serves as somewhat of a trial run to the process, allowing them to get feedback from scouts and evaluators. As far as Oats is concerned, if that leads to a team willing to commit serious money to one of his players, he’s all for it.
“If a guy’s got a guaranteed first-round contract, he probably needs to go,” Oats said “We’re here to make our players better. We’re here to make their future better. If you’ve got that type of guaranteed money, I’m not gonna convince you to come back if it’s not the best decision for you, your family, your future, your career.
“They’ve gotta get feedback like that on that stuff. I would expect there to be a few that would test it to see what they’ve got. But at the end of the day, if they don’t have a guaranteed first-round contract, most of the time it makes sense to come back and try to play your way up into it.”
None of Alabama’s underclassmen are currently projected to be selected in a position where they would receive guaranteed money. However, rising players such as senior Keon Ellis, redshirt junior Jahvon Quinerly, junior Jaden Shackelford and sophomore Josh Primo might all benefit from the process.
Don’t count on seniors returning
Alabama wouldn’t have to worry about making room for an extra scholarship spot if any of its seniors elected to return this season as the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility which wouldn’t be counted against the scholarship limit. However, that doesn’t appear to be something the Tide will take advantage of next season.
Reigning SEC player of the year Herbert Jones has already announced he is going to start the next chapter of his career in the NBA while Petty also gave his farewell over social media. Meanwhile, Bruner is reportedly hiring an agent. Wednesday, Oats confirmed that he does not expect any of his seniors to return next season.
“I talked to them about it during the year, after the year — they all know they’ve got the option,” Oats said. “None of them are planning on using that option right now, to be honest with you.
“I think they’ve all had really good college careers. Alex Reese is on pace to graduate. Herb Jones has already graduated. John Petty is on pace to graduate. Jordan Bruner graduated from Yale before he got here; he’s on pace to finish his masters. The education part of it is done. They’re now at the point where they can go make some money playing at different levels.”
An update on Alex Tchikou
One addition Alabama will receive is the return of Tchikou, who sat out his first season with the program after tearing his Achilles tendon last October. Wednesday, Oats provided an update on the four-star forward and how he is progressing this offseason.
“He’s not able to go live or anything yet,” Oats said. “He is able to shoot. He’s able to do some stuff off two feet. He still can’t jump off that right Achilles tendon, the one that he tore. He’s still a little ways out from doing that.”
Tchikou, a native of Paris, France, came to the Tide as the No. 36 overall player and No. 6 power forward in last year’s class. The forward played his senior season of high school at Dream City Christian High School in Glendale, Ariz. where he averaged nearly 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game.
Wednesday, Oats said Tchikou has made serious strides in the weight room during his time at Alabama, adding nearly 20 pounds while filling out his 6-foot-11 frame at 245 pounds. The forward is expected to be healthy in time for his redshirt freshman season this year.
“We’ve talked to him about what his role is,” Oats said. “He’s played more like a five that has played on the perimeter. You know, our fives don’t play like traditional fives. He’s bigger, stronger. He’s going to need to rebound, shoot it well for us, but he’s coming along.
“Shoot, he works. He wants to be in the gym and work. It’s hard to predict where he’s going to be right now because you're not seeing him healthy and live yet.”
Oats said the team started workouts last week and will continue this week before taking the next two weeks off for finals. From there, players will go home for three weeks before rejoining the team for offseason workouts. At that point, he’s hoping Tchikou will be at a point where he can be better evaluated heading into the season.
Outside of roster management and player development, Oats is still looking to piece together the rest of next year’s non-conference schedule. According to previous announcements, the Tide has games against Houston, Memphis, South Alabama and Yale lined up. In addition, Alabama will be taking part in the Big12/SEC Challenge as well as the Orlando Invitational which has yet to release its tournament field.
When asked about the upcoming non-conference slate Wednesday, Oats said he plans to put together a challenging schedule without making things unnecessarily hard on his team moving forward.
“We’re going to schedule really good teams, but Houston's pretty good,” Oats said. “I’m not trying to schedule too many top-10 teams coming here. Houston will be here. We’re still trying to work on the Birmingham deal, what’s going to happen there. We typically play up there. We’ve got some work to do on the schedule, it’s nowhere close to being done.”