Column: Nate Oats Just Had a Perfect Offseason

Coming off a Final Four run, Oats reloaded his roster and now looks like one of the favorites for the 2025 national championship.
Apr 6, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats walks off the court after his team lost to the Connecticut Huskies in the semifinals of the men's Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats walks off the court after his team lost to the Connecticut Huskies in the semifinals of the men's Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

This is an opinion column.

In an offseason filled with the pressure of trying to build off a Final Four run while also suffering seven departures, Nate Oats stepped up to the plate and batted 1.000.

The head coach of the Crimson Tide, entering his sixth season, has already seen unprecedented success in a very short time in Tuscaloosa. In April, he took the program to heights never seen before, making the Final Four for the first time in school history. There's momentum for programs that make the Final Four, but not all properly capitalize on it.

The offseason started with a string of departures to the transfer portal. Some were expected, as it is with every program in modern-day college basketball, but some weren't. Notably, starting wing Rylan Griffen, who seemed poised for a massive leap in his junior year, left a glaring hole in the middle of the roster.

In total, six players left the program by way of the transfer portal, and starting two-guard Aaron Estrada exhausted his final year of eligibility. Three starters from the Final Four game against UConn were gone, while the looming decisions of Mark Sears, Latrell Wrightsell, and Grant Nelson, who all had a fifth year of eligibility to potentially exercise, left the state of the roster in limbo.

But instead of the roster falling apart and Oats scrambling to put it back together, something that happened a year ago with the late and unexpected departures of Charles Bediako and Jahvon Quinerly, Oats put on a masterclass in roster construction in terms of both timing and fit.

Reinforcements were already on the way in the form of Pepperdine transfer Houston Mallette, who committed to the Crimson Tide before the team even got on the plane out to Spokane for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Once players started hitting the portal, Oats and lead recruiter Preston Murphy got to work in the transfer portal. South Florida transfer and AAC player of the year Chris Youngblood came next, with a 40 percent 3-point clip that immediately filled the void left by Griffen.

Oats added Auburn transfer Aden Holloway and top-35 recruit Labaron Philon as point guard depth, two talented players that could be the two point guards if need be, but would be even better served learning behind Sears and spelling him if he opted to return.

Perhaps the crown jewel addition of the offseason was Rutgers transfer Cliff Omoruyi, one of the best shot-blockers in the country and a multi-time Big Ten All-Defense selection. He fills a glaring hole that the Crimson Tide was missing throughout the 2023-24 season, an elite rim protector to funnel the opposition into.

In fact, just about every glaring weakness that the 2024 Alabama basketball team had, Oats found a way to address in the offseason. Mark Sears was having to play into the upper-30s in minutes towards the end of the season? Enter two uber-talented point guards to back him up. Grant Nelson struggled defending the interior? Enter a defensive stalwart at center that allows Nelson to play at his natural position, and even more depth in the frontcourt to aid the inevitable foul trouble.

Then of course it goes without saying, but Mark Sears is the cherry on top of it all. He'll be the best returning player in the SEC, and easily a candidate for National Player of the Year. And it's safe to assume his return was made possible because of Oats capitalizing on that aforementioned Final Four momentum, specifically in the NIL department.

The roster itself is perfectly constructed on paper. Experience wins in today's age of college basketball, and if Alabama wanted to, it could start five fifth-year seniors that all fit the system and have defined roles. Behind them would be ridiculously talented depth, with three McDonald's All-Americans and an NBA Draft entrant all coming off the bench.

Oats has constructed a uniquely perfect blend of experience and talent, where there's enough returning leadership and veteran presence to allow the young talent to grow. I mean, the assumed 13th man on the roster is a top-50 recruit, for goodness' sake.

You're going to hear a lot about this Alabama basketball team as the season approaches, and rightfully so. Many national writers have already put them as the preseason No. 1 team, and it's because Oats made it the entire offseason without a single whiff.

Will it work out? Only time will tell. But for now, enjoy the lead up to the most anticipated Alabama basketball season Tuscaloosa has ever seen.


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Blake Byler

BLAKE BYLER

Blake Byler is a staff writer for BamaCentral and primarily covers Alabama basketball and football. He has covered a wide variety of Crimson Tide sports since 2021, and began writing full-time for BamaCentral in 2023. You can find him on Twitter/X @blakebyler45.