Nate Oats has made it no secret that he is looking at every avenue possible to upgrade Alabama’s roster, both in talent and experience. He already landed the help of two Canadian stalwarts in four-star big Keon Ambrose and five-star combo guard Josh Primo, both of whom will be freshmen when they arrive on campus later this year. Now, the hardest working man in college basketball is hitting the transfer portal with a fury never before seen in Tuscaloosa. Seriously, the guy has been killing it from the safety of his own home. I follow quite a few college basketball beat writers and journalists on Twitter, and just about every other update on a player in the transfer portal includes a “Top ____ Schools” with Alabama’s name on it.
We know that Oats is looking to target big guards who can score from all over the floor and skilled post players who are able to get up and down the court with a high motor and the ability to stretch the defense with perimeter shooting. These are about the only two types of players Oats really focuses on in his scheme, which is about as position-less as it gets in modern basketball.
But, who, exactly is Oats targeting in this year’s transfer lottery? Let’s take a more detailed look at a large list of candidates.
Let’s start with Oats’ number one priority right now: Yale center, Jordan Bruner. The 6’9 big man is the prototypical post player in Oats’ system. He can score both at the basket (51.9% 2P%) and, when necessary, from distance (32.3% 3P%), he rebounds (16.5% REB%) and defends (87.6 DRtg, 6.2% BLK%) at a high level, and he’s a smart (obviously) player that can handle the ball and distribute (21.7% AST%). The guy is the real deal.
Bruner’s final stat-line from this season was incredibly impressive: 10.9 PPG / 9.2 RPG / 3.7 APG/ 1.7 BPG. Against a loaded LSU team in the NCAA Tournament last year, Bruner dropped 16 points and 9 rebounds with a crucial block late in the game that kept Yale within striking distance of the Bayou Bengals. He also recorded double-doubles against North Carolina and Clemson this year, and was a basket short of doing so against a huge Penn State team as well. So, he’s not just bullying Ivy League teams.
He is one of the top transfers on the market in 2020, as evidenced by the semifinal list he revealed last Friday, naming Louisville, Gonzaga, Baylor, Maryland, and Arkansas along with the Tide. Just yesterday, he trimmed that last down to three: Alabama, Baylor, and Maryland. Oats has been recruiting him hard, and it’s likely that coach is the reason Alabama is even in the running. As a grad transfer, Bruner would be eligible to play immediately, which would be a massive win for the Tide. I don’t like making predictions, but I’d give Alabama the slight edge here right now, with Baylor being the main contender for his signature. Also, it should be noted that Bruner may decide to enter the NBA Draft as well, though that seems less likely.
Alabama is also heavily involved in the recruitment of Long Beach State big man, Joshua Morgan. The 6’10 center finished up his freshmen year averaging 8.4 PPG / 6.1 RPG / 2.5 BPG. He’ll have to sit a year, which is why his list of top schools hasn’t become clear yet, but Arizona, Syracuse, and hometown UCLA are all as interested as Alabama is, so this will be a tough get for Oats.
Unlike in the post, where Oats seems to be all-in on Bruner right now, Alabama is in the market for a number of talented guards. The two most-likely to become members of the Crimson Tide are a pair of athletic JUCO transfers, Keon Ellis and SaQuan Singleton. Ellis is a 6’5 combo guard from Florida SouthWestern State College who holds competing offers from Iowa State and Kansas State (the Tide offered a scholarship before anyone though). He is a true scorer who averaged 18.1 PPG on 53.6%/40.1%/80.7% shooting this past season, leading his JUCO to a 27-1 record.
Singleton is a 6’6 point guard that the Tide would absolutely love to add as a back-up to Jahvon Quinerly at the point. He averaged 11.8 PPG / 4.8 APG / 7.3 RPG this past season in his sophomore campaign for Hutchinson Community College (the same juco current Bama player James Rojas came from). He’s received interest from a ton of schools, but Alabama seems to be one of the few power conference programs interested in him. Both Ellis and Singleton would be immediately eligible as JUCO transfers with two years left of eligibility.
The Tide are also in the running for a number of power conference transfers that would have to sit a year before becoming eligible. The three most notable names are Pittsburgh guard Trey McGowens, Virginia Tech guard Landers Nolley II, and Wichita State guard Jamarius Burton.
McGowens averaged 11.5 PPG / 3.6 APG / 3.3 RPG / 1.9 SPG as a sophomore this past season at the two-guard for the Panthers. He recently revealed a top eight list of Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Seton Hall, TCU, and Xavier. Nolley averaged 15.5 PPG / 5.8 RPG / 2.4 APG as a true freshman in Blacksburg this year. He was, by far, the best player on a rebuilding Virginia Tech squad, and he very well may be the best player available on the market. Just about every team in college basketball is after the 6’7 combo guard. Burton is one of many players transferring away from our old pal, Gregg Marshall, in Wichita. He averaged 10.3 PPG / 3.4 APG / 3.5 RPG as a sophomore this past year. Like Nolley, he has yet to narrow down a list of suitors.
As you can see, Nate Oats isn’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic prevent him from reshaping his roster in Tuscaloosa. With a pair of Canada’s finest making the trip down south as members of the Tide’s 2020 recruiting class already in tow, Oats is now heavily working the transfer market. It’s that kind of disciplined intensity that people in Tuscaloosa are quite used to seeing from elite recruiters in Nick Saban and Brad Bohannon in the other ‘Big Three’ sports programs. It’s the kind of recruiting that delivers results, both on and off of the court.
Again, I hate to speculate on what these players decide to do, but I think there’s a really good chance that Bruner, Ellis, and Singleton will be joining the Crimson Tide in the fall. Ellis and Singleton are likely gets for the Tide, and Oats is going to do his best to convince Bruner to turn down a legitimate Final Four contender in Baylor. If that is the case, Alabama’s going to be a major player in a strong Southeastern Conference in 2021. Things have been rough lately for Tide Hoops, but Nate Oats is going to get this ship righted.