2020 Signing Class Another Step in Changing Culture of Alabama Basketball

Alabama Athletics

Tyler Martin

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A lot of has changed over the last month or so for the University of Alabama men’s basketball program. 

Roster, outlook, and direction are a few of those changes. 

No postseason due to the COVID-19 outbreak forced Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats and his staff to turn all of their attention to the recruiting trail, and it paid off on Wednesday, when the program signed the 16th best class in the nation per ESPN and 18th according to the 247Sports Composite. 

Oats held a teleconference with the media on Thursday to discuss the newest signees and what they could potentially bring to the table for the 2020-2021 campaign. 

“It was good we got of all them signed,” Oats said. “What it does is changes our roster into the way we wanted it. You look at it, there is three perimeter guys and two bigs. The bigs are long, athletic, and skilled enough to shoot the three.”

The first signee Oats mentioned on his call was Yale grad transfer Jordan Bruner. The 6-foot-9 forward was named First Team All-Ivy League after averaging 10.9 points and 9.2 rebounds last season. 

Bruner will provide much needed post play and rim protection for the Crimson Tide, while also bringing a veteran presence that saw the NCAA tournament twice during his time as a Bulldog. 

“I think Bruner was the best available grad transfer on the market for what we needed immediate help with this past season,” Oats said. “We needed exactly what he brings. I think I was one of the first coaches to get a hold of him when he went into the portal and we were just able to build a relationship from there.”

The Columbia, S.C. native recorded the first triple-double in Yale history on Feb. 21 against Cornell, notching 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. 

Oats likes Bruner’s versatility but his defensive prowess stands out a great deal as well. He also believes that Bruner will pair well with junior wing Herbert Jones if he decides to return for his senior season after testing the NBA draft waters. 

“Look, we were 12 points better on the defensive end when Herb [Jones] was on the floor per 100 possessions,” Oats said. “He was by far our best defensive leverage guy. Yale was 18 points better when Jordan Bruner was on the floor on the defensive end.

“He has the same impact defensively that Herb Jones has. It was a no-brainer for us. We were super ecstatic when we committed.”

As all Crimson Tide fans saw this past season under Oats, shooting the three at a consistent percentage is crucial for his system to be effective. 

JUCO All-American transfer guard and Alabama signee Keon Ellis from Florida SouthWestern State College will help the team pick up right where it left off — breaking school and SEC three-point records. 

The Eustis, Fla. native shot 54 percent from the field, and 40 percent from three-point range to help lead the Buccaneers to a 29-2 record on his way to being rated as the No. 3 JUCO player in the country by 247Sports. 

“We needed more perimeter depth,” Oats said. “He fits our system perfectly, offensively and defensively. This is a guy who nearly averaged 19 points a game on the best junior college team in the county. He impacts the game in every area.”

Darius Miles — the Crimson Tide signee out of IMG Academy — gives Oats flashbacks of Jeremy Harris, who he coached at Buffalo for two seasons.

“I think his upside is real big,” Oats said. “He reminds of Jeremy Harris who we had at Buffalo and he killed Arizona in the NCAA tournament. He is 6-foot-7, skilled, athletic, and his passing is great. He could play the two, three, or four for us.”

Five-star combo guard Josh Primo is the highest rated signee of the group and his shot-making ability at all three levels mixed with his 6-foot-6 size will create mismatches for opposing defenders next year.

“He can pass it real, real well,” Oats said. “We want unselfish guys who pass the ball really well and Primo does that. He blew up at the Basketball Without Borders event that the NBA runs and ESPN put him in the middle of the first round in their 2021 mock drafts after that. He is a guy who can make an immediate impact, all five of our new guys can.”

Not to be forgotten is four-star forward Keon Ambrose Hylton, who signed with the Crimson Tide back in November. Oats says he loves the strides the 6-foot-8 Canadian has taKen since then. 

“He had games where he had over 20 rebounds last year, and we struggled to rebound the ball this year,” Oats said. “The fact that he rebounds as well as he does has us real excited because he brings an energy and athleticism that we were maybe lacking this year.”

Collectively, this is Alabama’s highest rated class since 2017 that included the trio of Collin Sexton, John Petty, and Jones and there is a chance Oats and his staff are not done yet. 

Four-star center Frank Anselem recently named his top three that included the Crimson Tide, LSU, and Georgia. The 6-foot-10, 220 pound prospect reclassified from the 2021 class to 2020. 

“We are almost done,” Oats said. “If there is a no-brainer that pops us, or somebody that we have been heavily involved with- I would say we are almost done. If this was the five we ended with, we would be ecstatic.” 

But more importantly, this was Oats’ first full cycle since taking over in Tuscaloosa, meaning this is one of the first steps in fully instilling his “blue-collar” approach and changing the course of Crimson Tide basketball from previous years. 

“Now we have to get them on campus,” Oats said. “I do not know when that will happen but I am looking forward to meshing them with our returnees. I think we really have something here.”