TUSCALOOSA — Not even an ongoing global pandemic can stop the roll Nate Oats is on right now.
The second-year Alabama men's basketball coach and his staff have recruited hard over the last several weeks, securing three commitments over the last 12 days — all while maintaining proper social distancing protocol because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest of those commitments came in the last three days after top-rated junior college transfer guard Keon Ellis of Florida SouthWestern State committed Sunday and three-star small forward Darius Miles of IMG Academy pledged with the Crimson Tide on Tuesday afternoon.
"On my path to greatness I've encountered some real speed bumps that slowed me down, and to say today I will finally be making the decision on which school I'll be showcasing my talents at is a dream come true," Miles said in a video he posted to social media Tuesday. "With that being said, next year I will be playing at the University of Alabama. Roll Tide!"
Miles is a 6-foot-7, 185-pound stretch wing originally from Washington, D.C., while Ellis is a 6-6 combo guard from Fort Myers, Fla., with two years of eligibility remaining. They join a 2020 recruiting class that includes four-star guard Josh Primo of Canada, and 6-8 four-star power forward Keon Ambrose-Hylton, who signed with the Crimson Tide in late November.
“Recruiting is obviously one of those things that’s changed," Oats said in a March 24 teleconference with reporters. "If everything was status quo and normal, I’d be flying all over the place trying to get my face in front of players right now, whether they be transfers, JUCOs, high schoolers, anywhere. What ideally this roster looks like is multiple skilled players all over the floor. That’s kind of how we’ve won in the past."
Although last season's 2019-20 squad only had one outgoing senior in graduate transfer James "Beetle" Bolden, Oats has remained active on the recruiting trail after redshirt freshman forward Raymond Hawkins entered the transfer portal in mid-March and three starters — junior wings Herbert Jones and John Petty Jr. and sophomore point guard Kira Lewis Jr. — announced they were tentatively testing the 2020 NBA draft waters with a chance to return.
"I’ve followed college basketball at a pretty high level for a long time. I think where teams get stuck is when they don’t plan on guys leaving and all of a sudden, they leave," Oats said. "So, I think the best course of action is to plan on them (Lewis and Petty) leaving, and if they happen to come back, it’s a pleasant surprise."
But that "pleasant surprise" could create a difficult roster situation that would necessitate even more turnover should Alabama's roster exceed the 13 scholarship limit with four players already promised a scholarship next season, including the already signed Ambrose-Hylton.
Regardless of any future complications, Oats is simply doing his best to overhaul a Crimson Tide squad that flashed potential within his uptempo style but couldn't quite put it all together in his first season on the job.
"We want more guys that can pass, dribble and shoot all over the floor. We want more bigs that can shoot — pass, dribble and shoot, to be honest with you," Oats said. "So, we’re looking at every possible angle there is. We’re talking to high school kids that we’ve been tracking for a while. We’re talking to JUCO guys that we’ve been tracking for a while. We’re talking to transfers that have just become available here in the last week or two. We’re looking at all of it."