Oats, Petty lead men’s basketball team on monstrous run

Could 2021 be Alabama’s one shining moment?

After year upon year of falling short of their goals, Alabama men’s basketball finally is fulfilling its potential. The Crimson Tide is currently 12-3 and ranked No. 18 in the AP Poll. Under coach Nate Oats, the team is extremely guard-centric and always looks to push the pace. 

The team started out as they often do. Heading into conference play, Alabama was 5-3, and there wasn’t much hope for competing for conference championships. But for Oats and the rest of the team, this was the start of an unprecedented run. Alabama is on a seven-game winning streak in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and has its highest AP ranking in nine years.

“It was a big win. We talked about what type of character would we have after the big win at Kentucky,” Oats said in a postgame press conference after the Arkansas game. “We knew Arkansas was going to bring everything they had. Our guys responded great.”

Since the team began conference play, senior guard John Petty Jr. has led the team. Petty is averaging 15 points and five rebounds per game. It’s hard to watch a game and not see Petty have an impact on almost every play on both sides of the court. For Petty and the other seniors that returned this year, a conference championship and a bid for March Madness was the goal. Oats has commended the leadership and toughness that these players have shown throughout the season.

“I am really happy for Petty who became the program’s leader in three-pointers,” Oats said after a 90-59 blowout versus Arkansas. “He came back for his senior year and he is having a great year.”

Since the streak began, fans and commentators don’t have many negative things to say about the team. Alabama is currently winning by an average of 19 points per game in its last eight matchups. 

Senior forward Herb Jones Jr. is the heart and soul of the Alabama defensive effort. A former All SEC defensive team member, Jones is the only player currently averaging one block and one steal per game for Alabama. But that isn’t all Jones excels at. Oats gives out a hardhat award after every game to the player who did the most work on the court that wasn’t counted in the stat sheet. Jones has amassed 7 of Oats’ awards this year, highlighting not only his skill, but his sportsmanship.

But the Alabama team is still shooting for higher goals than maintaining its winning streak. To most fans, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch Alabama basketball become like the teams of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which were home to famed players like 16-year NBA veteran Robert Horry. 

Oats said the team is keeping its eye on the prize.

“For right now, today, it really doesn’t mean anything. It just means we’ve been playing pretty good,” Oats said after the AP Poll put Alabama at No. 18. “But shoot, that can all go out the window in one game. We’ve just gotta keep doing what we’ve been doing, keep focused on the task at hand. It’s really a distraction if you think about it for more than about five, 10 seconds. Keep the distractions away and just keep working, doing what we’ve been doing here.”