Jaden Shackelford on Alabama reaching the Sweet 16

Jaden Shackelford on Alabama reaching the Sweet 16

Crimson Corner: What Jaden Shackelford's Return Means for Alabama Basketball

The junior guard announced that he will be returning for his third season under Nate Oats, bringing even more depth to a team already loaded with talent.
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Indulge me for a moment by placing yourself in a fictional scenario:

Imagine that you're in your kitchen at home. You just got home from work, and your significant other asks you what's for dinner. Not wanting to go with the usual dinner, you start searching Google for recipes.

You stumble across a recipe for a type of garlic chicken that looks enticing. Off the top of your head, you feel that you have all of the ingredients that you need, so you start to prepare the meal.

After prepping the meat and placing it in the pan to cook, you begin to make the sauce that accompanies the dish. The sauce takes the dish to a whole new level. However, you notice that the recipe calls for fresh minced garlic.

You head over to the fridge, only to find that you don't have any fresh garlic cloves. You do, however, have a jar of pre-minced garlic. While the pre-minced garlic would do just fine, you know deep down that your dish wouldn't have the same level of freshness or bold flavor that it would have if you had picked up some fresh garlic cloves on the way home.

It's not that the pre-minced garlic is bad, it's just that it wouldn't be the same.

Just as you're about to put the minced garlic in the sauce before adding it to the chicken, your significant other enters the kitchen and asks why you're using the pre-minced stuff. They then inform you that if you had checked the top shelf of the fridge, you would find that you still have a couple of fresh cloves.

Sure enough, there it is. You mince the fresh cloves, and you and your family have a tasty dinner.

Now, back to reality. I'm going to ask that you indulge me again, but this time for a very stretched comparison.

For Alabama basketball, Jaden Shackelford is that fresh garlic.

I know, I just rolled my own eyes as I typed that statement. However, hear me out.

This offseason, Shackelford tested the NBA waters to seek out advice on the next level. After some disappointing evaluations, he then announced that he was entering the NCAA Transfer Portal. For the Crimson Tide, losing its leading scorer heading into next season would have been a big blow, but certainly not the end of the world.

Alabama certainly has a lot of talent joining the team this year. Even if Shackelford had left and the team had lost all five of its regular starters from last season, the team still would have had a decent amount of depth at the guard position. Players like incoming freshman J.D. Davison, Texas Tech transfer Nimari Burnett and returners Jahvon Quinerly and Keon Ellis would have, no doubt, done just fine on their own.

The Crimson Tide has a plethora of depth heading into this fall. After a 2020-2021 season that saw the program win both the SEC regular-season and tournament titles and a run to the Sweet 16, expectations are higher than they have been in decades for the Alabama program.

Third-year coach Nate Oats has built depth with the program, an issue that has plagued the team for years. Even without Shackelford, that depth would have been ok, but it wouldn't have been to the same level.

After testing the portal and evaluating his options, Shackelford opted to return to Tuscaloosa this fall. With that announcement, Alabama basketball's depth grows by leaps and bounds. Last season, Shackelford provided an impressive offensive attack. This season, he'll seek to do the same but also in a leadership role as a junior.

There will no doubt be other leaders on the program. Ellis, Quinerly and Furman transfer Noah Gurley will certainly see to that. However, Shackelford is the last Avery Johnson recruit on the program. He's seen where the team was and has witnessed its path over the last two seasons. He knows what Oats wants out of his players and what the expectations are for him and the rest of the team.

While he didn't play a second for Johnson, he no doubt remembers the struggles that the program was going through prior to him joining the team.

The Crimson Tide will have considerable depth this season, and Shackelford's decision to return is just the icing on the cake. Sure, the team would have most likely been fine without him, but his return takes the team to the next level in terms of offensive depth on the bench.

And that's why Shackelford is no substitute.

Indulge me for a moment by placing yourself in a fictional scenario:

Imagine that you're in your kitchen at home. You just got home from work, and your significant other asks you what's for dinner. Not wanting to go with the usual dinner, you start searching Google for recipes.

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