As the Alabama basketball team returned to practice last week, Nate Oats and his staff, led by ace recruiters Bryan Hodgson and Antoine Pettway, continued their roll on the recruiting trail. With four-star wing Jusaun Holt and the top ranked point guard in the country, J.D. Davison, already in tow, the Tide expanded its 2021 recruiting class to include one of the top rated JUCO prospects available: four-star stretch post Langston Wilson. The 6’9 big man is, yet another, incredibly athletic and long player who can defend almost any position on the court and knock down shots on the other end. Good luck switching on to this guy:
Wilson compares favorably to another big Oats brought in for the 2020 class, Alex Tchikou (who I will update you on shortly). His ability to run the floor and shoot the basketball almost seems unfair considering how long he is. The big lefty has incredible burst around the rim, and he’s going to be catching a metric ton of lobs from Davison and Jahvon Quinerly. He’s also going to be a killer in both pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations. The JUCO product from Georgia Highlands College chose Alabama over the likes of Memphis, Oregon, and Texas A&M.
Have I mentioned how long he is? There’s a reason for it. Wilson was born with Marfan Syndrome, a disorder that affects connective tissue, the fibers that make up the body’s organs and other structures. If it affects the aorta, it can be life-threatening. It also has the side-effect of disproportionally long arms, legs, fingers, and toes.
Wilson has been through a lot as a result of his disorder, including having to give up the game he loves at a relatively young age (read this article). He didn’t even play high school ball, as it was recommended that he avoid any activity that put a lot of stress on his heart. Long story, short (seriously, read that article): Wilson ended up being cleared by his cardiologist, and he’s not taking any of this for granted. He seems incredibly mature for a man his age, and he is going to do whatever it takes to make his dream of becoming an NBA player a reality. This is a young man anybody can root for, and we are lucky to have him come to the Capstone next season.
As it currently stands, Alabama has the 13th-ranked class for 2021, according to 247 Sports. However, that ranking is likely underselling where the Tide will end up, as Alabama is very much in play for another pair of five-star prospects: 6’8 sharpshooter Caleb Houstan and 6’11 big man Charles Bediako. If Oats and company can land both of them, the Tide could end up with the highest rated class in the entire country. In basketball.
That isn’t some sort of far-fetched pipe-dream either. Alabama is the clear favorite to land Bediako at this point. Every recruiting expert that has made a prediction so far is expecting the big man to end up in Tuscaloosa. Bediako was teammates with 2020 Tide signee, Keon Ambrose-Hylton, in Canada (goodness, is that pipeline paying off), so the connection is already there. At this point, it would be pretty disappointing if Alabama didn’t land Bediako.
Meanwhile, Houstan recently announced his top four remaining schools a few weeks ago: Alabama, Duke, Virginia, and Michigan. None of those four schools would be a surprise at this point, but momentum in recruiting is a real thing, and if Alabama already has a top-five class lined up with Bediako’s signature, Houstan may just want to join in on the fun. It certainly doesn’t hurt that J.D. is already heavily recruiting both of them.
That’s not even to mention Ga’Quincy “Kool-Aid” McKinstry, the top-rated football recruit in the state of Alabama who wants to play both sports. Sure would be nice if Saban could take on that scholarship.
What About Now?
Pulling the lens back in a little bit to focus on this upcoming season, there has been no shortage of news lately. With about a month to go before the college hoops season begins on November 25th, teams all around the country have started back up practicing. Unfortunately, that means we are going to see an uptick in injuries. And, much like last season, Alabama has already been hit with a significant one.
Alex Tchikou injured his Achilles on Monday, and he’s likely to have surgery and miss the upcoming season. The nearly-seven-foot, four-star big was expected to be a dynamic lift off of the bench this year in the frontcourt, an area Alabama has lacked depth in for a long time now. Luckily, Oats has really built up depth on this roster with the class he brought in this past year, and the Tide will have James Rojas and Juwan Gary back after their season-ending ACL tears that occurred almost exactly 12 months ago, but this is definitely a damper right before the season tips-off. Tchikou is a raw prospect, but one that could have a long NBA future ahead of him. We’ll just have to consider him part of this ridiculous 2021 class that Oats is putting together.
For the time being, this likely means that Ambrose-Hylton will be asked to contribute some solid minutes off of the bench in the post. Again, Alabama has good depth now, and the main rotation should be mostly unaffected. Probably still looking at a starting five of Quinerly - Jaden Shackelford - John Petty - Jordan Bruner - Herb Jones with Josh Primo, Keon Ellis, and James Rojas as the first guys off of the bench and Alex Reese and Juwan Gary rounding out the rotation.
That’s still a strong group, much better than many of the teams Alabama has put out in the last ~15 years. Expectations are definitely still high for this team, and now, we are finally starting to get some idea of what the 2020-2021 season is going to look like. Oats hinted the other day that the Tide would be looking at a nine game non-conference schedule, down from the typical 12-13 out-of-conference games played in a non-pandemic year. It looks like that nine-game schedule will remain pretty brutal.
The Maui Invitational has been rescheduled for November 30th - December 2nd, and will now take place in Asheville, NC. Kind of a bummer for the program, as the team will no longer be able to visit the islands of Hawaii for the premier non-conference basketball tournament. But, the competition won’t be any less fierce. Alabama will open the tournament with a match-up against a rising Stanford program, in a rematch of Alabama’s stunning upset over the top-seeded Cardinal which really sparked the Tide’s Elite Eight run in 2004. Other participants include North Carolina (who the Tide would likely play in the semifinals with a win over Stanford), Texas, Indiana, Providence, UNLV, and Davidson.
It was also announced this morning that Alabama will travel to play Oklahoma in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge this season, a rematch of the electric Trae Young - Collin Sexton showdown in T-Town two years back. Oats has also hinted that the home-and-home series with a really good Houston team will still take place this year and next, as well as the neutral site match-up with Clemson in Atlanta. So, that’s six games right there. I would imagine that Oats would want a tune-up before the Maui Invitational, and the Tide did originally have Jacksonville State, South Alabama, Vermont, Furman, and UNC-Asheville scheduled to appear in Coleman Coliseum this season, as well as a road trip to Yale. Considering the Ivy League has postponed all athletics until the Spring, I’d say that Yale game is off for this season (sorry, Bruner). My best guess at a non-conference schedule would be:
- Jacksonville State November 25th
- Maui Invitational (3 games) November 30th - December 2nd
- South Alabama December 8th
- Clemson (in Atlanta) December 12th
- Furman December 15th
- Houston December 19th
- Oklahoma (in Norman) January 30th
Conference play is expected to start up the week of the 28th of December. I would expect that the SEC plans on playing a full 18 game schedule, and they’ll likely try to get in as many games as they can before students start returning to campus for the spring semester.
That’s about all for now. It’s an exciting time to be an Alabama basketball fan. Jump on the bandwagon while you can, folks!