WITH OATS ERA UNDERWAY, ALABAMA BASKETBALL HAS WORK TO DO

The Nate Oats era has been underway for several months in Tuscaloosa, but members of the media got their first glimpse at the 2019-20 squad on Wednesday afternoon. The Crimson Tide practiced for an hour on the main court in Coleman Coliseum, going through dribbling and shooting drills before running half-court 3 v. 3 and 5 v. 5 sets.

Here are some takeaways from the offseason practice:

Going through Changes

It didn’t take long for Alabama’s players to realize that things would be different under Oats. The first workout of the offseason, held days after he was hired, caught them by surprise and left them gasping for air.

“The first workout, I ain’t going to lie, it was tough,” forward John Petty Jr. said. “Everybody was winded.”It was like a few days after he got the job, we did a workout and it was just new to everybody. We didn’t realize how fast he said he was going to play until we actually started working out with him.”

The team’s Wednesday practice didn’t feature any full-court play, so the quickened pace wasn’t on display.

Since that first exhausting practice, Petty believes that the team has grown accustomed to doing everything a little bit faster.

“I think everybody has adjusted well and everybody is caught up to it now,” Petty said.

Hitting fast-forward on Alabama’s style of play isn’t the only change Oats is implementing. He’s also expecting his big men to step outside and shoot more threes. He specifically mentioned junior Galin Smith and redshirt freshman Javian Davis-Fleming as players who have worked on improving their range.

“We chart our guys on made threes,” Oats said. “Galin has been in the gym working. We explained to these guys, like our bigs – the way we played at Buffalo, our bigs shot a lot of threes so we’re encouraging. Fleming can actually shoot.”

But Oats doesn’t just want to see his big men improve from downtown, he wants the team’s three-point percentage improve across the board. Alabama was 209th in the country in three point percentage last season, shooting just 34% from beyond the arc while only putting up 7.2 three-point attempts per game.

Oats introduced the team to a simple drill called the NBA 100 in which each player must shoot 100 threes and keep track of their percentage. Junior Herbert Jones has already seen the drill improve his confidence from deep.

“I think the first time I shot it I was 44%,” Jones said. “I improved it to 59.”

Continuing to work on his outside shot is a “huge goal” for Jones, as it will be for the rest of the team.

Missing Pieces

The Crimson Tide was missing three players at practice that are listed on the official roster: Kira Lewis Jr. recently made the 18-man roster for the USA U-19 team and continues to work with the team in Colorado Springs, Colorado this week. Graduate transfer James “Beetle” Bolden and freshman James Rojas are still finishing up summer classes. Oats expects Bolden to join the team in the second half of the summer.

Although Villanova transfer Jahvon Quinerly practiced with the team, his eligibility for next season is still in question. He’s working with UA’s compliance office to gather more information before submitting a waiver request with the NCAA.

Young Guns

Even though there are still some missing links in Alabama’s roster, Oats is pleased with the way his team is shaping up already. He was especially complimentary of how the four freshman have adapted since coming in a month after the upperclassman were already working out with the new training staff.

“[Jaylen] Forbes plays with a chip on his shoulder and [Jordan] Shackelford has a college-ready body and Juwan [Gary] can be an elite-level defender,” Oats said. “Ray [Hawkins] was a little bit out of shape. He’s still working to get himself in shape but he’s got a lot of upside going when he does get there. All the freshman have great attitudes.”

Since four of Alabama’s players (Daniel Giddens, Diante Wood, Dazon Ingram, Tevin Mack) transferred from the program after Oats was hired, the Crimson Tide’s freshman will have a chance to see action early next season.

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