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First Practices All About Toughness, Blue-Collar Attitude for Alabama Basketball

Nate Oats met with the media on Thursday to offer a schedule update and what he wants to see from his team in practices as the season prepares to get underway

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Thursday morning marked the start of the men's college basketball season for the University of Alabama as the Crimson Tide held its first official practice of the 2020-2021 campaign. 

With practices now underway, Oats met with the media via Zoom afterwards to discuss what he is seeing with his team and offer an update to Alabama's pending schedule. 

"No, we did have to make arrangements," Oats said. "We had the schedule set before the lockdown happened, then we were in a holding pattern until they gave us the parameters we had to schedule with, now we have come up with a schedule that we think is set. We have sent contracts out earlier this week and we are waiting to get them back. We hope in the next week or two, we have it. I think a couple of them have been leaked out — the Maui deal and and the Houston one, maybe. We tried to maintain everything after the [November] 25th and close to what we had previously. We had to adjust a little bit. 

"We have nine non-conference games. SEC/Big 12 Challenge is one, Maui is three, so that takes us down to five. I think we have the one series game [Houston], three bye games, then the neutral one in Atlanta [Clemson]. I think you guys can piece that together. I think we are waiting on some contracts to officially release everything."

Games can begin no earlier than Nov. 25 and the Crimson Tide's first scheduled opponent, as of now, is Stanford on Nov. 30 in the Maui Invitational, which will take place in Asheville, N.C. this year due to COVID-19. 

That Houston home-and-home series that Oats mentioned has a date of Dec. 19, which was announced back in May, but could be altered. On Dec. 12, Alabama is set to square off against Clemson in Atlanta's State Farm Arena. 

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As for the first few practices, Oats is wanting to see his team reach a new level on defense, as last year the Crimson Tide showed its offense firepower, leading the Southeastern Conference in points per game, three-point field goal percentage, three-point field goals made. 

"So, we didn't go yesterday," Oats said. "Yesterday was the first day you could go. You get 30 days in the 42 days leading up to the games so we calculated our 30 out. We typically go Monday, Tuesday, take Wednesday off, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, take Sunday off, so we are going to maintain that pattern. 

"These first three days we are really trying to get an identity set — defense, blue-collar, hard-nosed, toughness, a lot of defensive drills, rebounding drills, a lot of tougher stuff. Our offense was good enough for us to compete at the top of the SEC last year, our defense was lacking by a large margin. We gotta get the defense fixed and establish that mindset right out of the gate. The first three days that's what we are trying to do." 

Oats mentioned that 12 of the 13 scholarship players were at least available for 90 percent of the first practice today and that, that depth will go a long with this season for his team. 

Redshirt-freshman forward Juwan Gary, who missed all of last season due to a knee injury, is still not able to do too much according to Oats.

"When you are deep, everyone gets fewer minutes than they want," Oats said. "But it is a great problem to have because there is pressure on everyone to perform. Last year, if you didn't give us the effort we needed, you look on the bench and there really wasn't another option, like you are begging them to play. This year, sit next to us if you don't want to give us a winning effort. You know, I think there's going to be some [competition], which makes everyone better to be honest. When you got to compete against good players everyday in practice, it will make you better. When you know you got to bring it or you aren't going to play, it makes everyone better. 

"The health [of team] looks great. Hopefully, we can continue to stay healthy. We don't have any wavier-type situation this year so we may have, based on what happens in the next six weeks, 13 scholarship players available to play, which would be great."