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Returns of Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly Put Alabama's Backcourt in Safe Hands

Both players had the opportunity to explore other options in the offseason, but ultimately Shackelford and Quinery returned to Tuscaloosa and will lead one of the best backcourts in the country.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Between the transfer portal, the NBA Draft, the G-League and international professional leagues, there are many options for today's college basketball players to choose from at the end of a season. 

Alabama lost several players from last season's SEC championship winning and Sweet 16 team to the NBA draft like Joshua Primo and Herb Jones or to eligibility like John Petty, Jordan Bruner and Alex Reese. 

Even though replacing the production of all those guys will be difficult, the Crimson Tide does return its top-two scorers from a season ago in Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly. 

"We wouldn’t be looking nearly like we are if those two hadn’t come back," Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. "If those two weren’t back here, we would’ve lost our top six scorers. We loss four out of our top six, but we did get the top two back which are Shack and JQ."

Oats is planning on heavily leaning on Quinerly, Shackelford and senior guard Keon Ellis for on-court production and off-court leadership for preseason No. 14 Alabama this year. 

It was a drama-filled offseason for Shackelford who tested the NBA waters and at one point entered his name in the transfer portal before ultimately deciding to return for Alabama for his junior season. 

"The offseason, it was good for me to test the waters in the NBA and whatnot, getting as much feedback as I can," Shackelford said. "Ultimately coming back here was a decision that I made with my family. I felt like it was the right decision for me. 

"You know I'm super stoked to be back. I feel like it was a good decision. I love being here with these guys, and I feel like we can continue to build and have an even better year than last year."

He averaged 14 points per game last season and was second on the team in free throw percentage at 75.6%. 

Oats said the process with Shackelford was similar to what he tells recruits. He doesn't pressure any recruits into committing to Alabama. He wants it to be a place where they see themselves 100% which is the same thing he shared with Shackelford. 

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"If you want to look somewhere, that’s fine," Oats said. "I want you here because you're convinced this is the best spot for you to achieve your goals. So, when he became convinced this is the best spot for him, we welcomed him back with open arms. He's gonna be great for us. He was the leading scorer on the fifth best team in the country last year."

Quinerly really came on strong as the point guard towards the end of last season, winning the MVP of the SEC Tournament. And even though he had a good year, the former five-star McDonald's All-American never seriously considered the NBA draft. 

"With the year I had last year, I kind of knew that it was my first year back, and it took me a while to get comfortable," Quinerly said. "And obviously towards the end of the year, I started playing well and better and my game has progressed as I got more comfortable.

"It's definitely been a thought, but I knew that I just wanted to come back this year and give it another run. As I knew these guys [Shackelford and Ellis] will be coming back with me, and I just feel like I kind of needed another year under my belt and proving myself at this level."

Quinerly averaged 12.9 points and 3.2 assists per game primarily coming off the bench for most of the season. 

Oats is planning on playing all three guys on the floor at the same time as highly-touted freshman guard JD Davison this season. With all of those guys on the court at the same time, it will make it extremely difficult for the other team to defend. The Alabama coach knows will have one of the best backcourts in the country this season. 

"Having those two back with the leadership they provide with the experience that they have in our program, I think was huge," Oats said. "I think they're leading the team well combined with Keon Ellis."

The forward position group still needs some development according to Oats, but with the guards are in good hands under the direction of Shackelford and Quinerly. 

"When you’ve got really good, experienced guard play in college, you’ve got a chance to win a lot of games," Oats said.