Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats landed a commitment last week from his second five-star prospect in as many years, beating some of the sport’s powerful players in Kentucky and Gonzaga.
But as Alabama continues to show that it can be competitive by recruiting some of the best in the country, a new contender has emerged in recent seasons: professional leagues that accept players straight out of high school.
The NBA G-League Ignite team began playing last year as a paid alternative to college basketball for players who have not yet reached the NBA minimum age of 19. Two Ignite players were selected from the top seven picks in the NBA Draft in July.
“It’s definitely very different,” Oats admitted on Wednesday. “I was in Buffalo three years ago, obviously we didn’t deal with all of that there. Even in top level basketball, you haven’t dealt as much three years ago. “
Another professional league, Overtime Elite, was formed this year, and the Atlanta-based operation has successfully offered six-figure salaries to five-star players coming out of high school.
“Overtime Elite, I’m not quite sure about the business model as a whole, but they have some really good deals that they are offering to kids,” Oats said.
Alabama’s first class 2022 entry was Jaden Bradley, a five-star goalie from IMG Academy in Florida and the No. 18 overall prospect in the 247 Sports rankings. Le Tide welcomed Bradley and his IMG teammate, five-star striker Jarace Walker, on a visit to Tuscaloosa last week. Walker is the # 13 overall prospect for 247 Sports and is currently not engaged.
Alabama also signed Tennessee five-star forward Brandon Miller, the 11th overall prospect in the 2022 class. Miller was originally scheduled to sign on Sept. 27 and choose between Alabama, Tennessee State and the G- League Ignite. However, he postponed his engagement sine die and now considering Kansas too.
Oats spoke on Wednesday about the decision players are making between going to college and playing in a professional league before trying to be drafted.
“I think the selling point for kids is that once you get to be a pro, you are a pro. You’re not coming back to college. I can’t play in college, ”he said. “There is something to be said for having a college experience. There is also something to be said about getting ready to go play in the NBA. I still think the university can do it better than anywhere.
Oats went on to say that the university gives players a chance to compete for a championship instead of “playing exhibition games,” and that the NBA Oats scouts have spoken about the value of that competition.
“There is no one who is a former G-League squad whatsoever,” he said. “There is a real passion behind Alabama basketball and Florida basketball, Kentucky basketball. You enter Rupp [Arena] or Florida or Arkansas or Auburn Arena – you’ve got a hostile environment, you’ve got to play a high-pressure, high-stakes game with a lot of stuff at stake. “
Alabama switched to a rhythmic system under Oats after being hired in 2019 that focuses on three-point shooting. He has long touted the style’s appeal to high school rookies, which manifested in Alabama Landing Guard Josh Primo, a four-star guard in 2020, and five-star guard JD Davison in. his last recruiting class.
Primo became the No.12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft after one season, while Davison is No.11 in the ESPN player rankings for the 2022 project.
Oats believes playing in Alabama has helped prospects advance in the draft – including Kira Lewis in 2020 and Herb Jones this year – and ultimately earn more money in pro contracts than they would have received at home. advance by playing immediately in a professional league.
“I think there is value, but you might have to defer that money for a year or two or whatever, depending on what options you consider,” he explained. “But I still think it can be a sound and wise financial decision as well as a wise decision just to help a child grow.
“I think we have a lot more resources here to help young boys become young men, young men become men who are now ready to be professional somewhere.”
A college coaches survey by CBS Sports this week revealed that 43% are “not at all concerned” about professional leagues, which typically only compete with the big schools for top prospects. However, it has been noted that there may be a trickle-down effect in which high-level programs losing rookies to professional leagues will fill these openings with lower-rated prospects who otherwise would have gone to lower-rated programs. important.
Oats said timing is part of the problem with the new reality.
“There was a kid we were recruiting pretty hard and we lost to another school, but he was engaged in college for a while and then suddenly decided to go to G-League at the last minute,” did he declare. “Suddenly his team has to find a way to replace him. There is no replacement for children this late.
“I’d rather you see them do it early, get out of recruiting early, and then have them chain you all the time.” I also think that if you are going to recruit high level players that we are trying to recruit, you will have to deal with that.
Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on twitter @mikerodak.