Nate Oats and his staff have been burning up the recruiting trail the past few months. They finished the 2020 recruiting class by landing 5 star G Joshua Primo and convincing 4 star F/C Alex Tchikou to reclassify from the 2021 class to the 2020 class. Then, they began the 2021 recruiting class by landing 4 star F Jusaun Holt, their #1 priority 5 star PG JD Davison, the #2 JUCO player in the nation F Langston Wilson, and they now stand in good position currently for other highly touted players in the 2021 class. This success has people asking: how is Alabama pulling this off this early in Oats's tenure? Let’s take a deeper look into why Nate Oats and his staff are becoming serious contenders for big time talent.
Nate Oats's philosophy on offense is simple. He wants his team to get up and down the floor, space the floor out with shooters, and only takes three pointers and shots in the paint. This type of play style allows for extra possessions and therefore leads to more opportunities for players to showcase their ability. In Oats's first season in Tuscaloosa he turned Alabama from the 117th team in adjusted tempo (68.7 Possessions per game) all the way to 4th in the nation (74.8 Possessions per game), and with that Alabama shot up to 3rd in the nation in scoring (82 PPG). This playstyle gives players the best chance to showcase their abilities from long range as well as in the open floor on the fast break. Oats designs his offense for athletes that can finish on the break and shooters that can knock down open shots. His 4-out, 1-in half court set allows space for shooters to take 3's consistently and opens up driving lanes for easy baskets at the rim. Oats’s playstyle is arguably one of the best in the nation for talented players to raise their draft stock in, and it is one of the big reasons he is landing these highly touted recruits.
The Assistant Coaches
The great job that the assistant coaches have done on the recruiting trail for Alabama can not be overstated. Bryan Hodgson was the main recruiter for Alabama’s 2020 recruiting class that ranked as 12th in the nation on 247 Sports and 10th in the nation on Rivals.com. Hodgson was brought to Tuscaloosa from Buffalo with Oats when he was hired and the main question mark was whether he would be able to recruit on a higher level. Well, Hodsgon has been more than capable. He ranked as one of the best recruiters in the country for the job he did with Alabama’s 2020 class. Then there is Antoine Pettway, who has made it through four head coaching changes at Alabama. After Davison committed to the Tide, The Athletic's Andrew Slater said, “Nobody survives four coaching changes unless they can get the job done,” referring to Pettway and his work year in and year out on the recruiting trail. Pettway is responsible for many of the talented names like Collin Sexton, Kira Lewis Jr., and Davison coming to Tuscaloosa. Nate Oats surrounded himself with a more than capable staff, and it is already showing on the recruiting trail.
An Athletic Department Committed to Excellence
Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne left Arizona for Tuscaloosa back in 2017, and it has been a home run hire for the Tide. Byrne has put an emphasis on not only being great in football, but giving all the other sports on campus the resources to be able to succeed. He hired not only Oats, who has Alabama hoops fans more excited than ever, but also Brad Bohannon in baseball who has essentially rebuilt the program to a Top 25 team before Covid-19 cancelled the season this past spring. Byrne also started “The Crimson Standard” fundraising campaign that plans for the long overdue renovation of Coleman Coliseum. Alabama basketball has also shown off new training equipment used for the players in practice. EliteForm is a program that uses 3D technology that helps bring velocity, power, and work metrics into the weight room for strength coach Mike Snowden. They have also added Catapult, who is the global leader in wearable sports science technology that tracks players workloads and development. The last piece of technology that Alabama basketball has added is NOAH, a state of the art shooting system known to help improve players' shot form. Recruits see the emphasis the athletic department has put on basketball in Tuscaloosa, and it is helping lure big time talent to the Capstone.
The Man Himself
When Nate Oats was hired to be Alabama’s next head coach he said that he felt he had to be going to something special to leave what he built at Buffalo. One of the first things he did after getting off the plane from Buffalo with Greg Byrne was sit down and talk with Nick Saban. Oats said he had been a fan from a distance for a while, but he saw an opportunity to learn from one of the best at maintaining a standard of excellence and didn’t want to let that opportunity pass. Oats has brought his "blue collar mentality" to Tuscaloosa, and it is something that is changing the foundation of the program. In past years, there were games where fans could see a visible lack of effort on the floor from the team. Now, it would be hard to find a game where players are not hustling and playing hard for Coach Oats. Oats is selling recruits on the fact that Alabama will not have to rebuild anymore, only reload. In one season, he helped Kira Lewis raise his draft stock from late first rounder to a projected lottery pick in the 2020 NBA draft. He not only has had success with recruits coming out of high school, but he is one of the better coaches in college basketball at developing JUCO talent. He surrounded himself with a staff that is dedicated to changing the way the Alabama basketball program is viewed, and it has become evident early that he can achieve success in a major conference.
With the early additions to the 2021 class in 4 star F Jusaun Holt, JUCO F Langston Wilson, and 5 star PG JD Davison, Alabama sits at the 13th class ranking in the country on 247 Sports with 3 commits. Oats and his staff are not done yet, their focus now turns to 5 star C Charles Bediako (Alabama is listed in his final 5 schools), 4 star G Wesley Cardet, 5 star F Moussa Diabete, and 5 star G Hunter Sallis.
For so long Alabama hoops fans felt like they were in an endless dark tunnel where seasons seemed to end with the same NCAA Tournament bubble watch every year, but now fans can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's approaching fast.