Winter 2022

Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats leaning on prayer, Scripture amid player's arrest

Devastating news came out of the college basketball world this week as it was announced that Darius Miles, a now-former forward on the Alabama men’s basketball team, was arrested and charged with the murder of 23-year-old Jamea Harris. Investigators say he provided the gun used in the shooting.

“I just want to start today by offering our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jamea Jonae Harris, a young woman, daughter and mother who was taken way too soon from a senseless act,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said in a press conference on Monday, according to CNN.com.

He continued later, “We’re continuing to support each other as we process this and balance school and basketball.”

The No. 4-ranked Crimson Tide on Tuesday played its first game since learning of the heartbreaking news. Following the 78-66 win at Vanderbilt, Oats was interviewed by the SEC Network’s Dari Nowkah and asked how he’s been able to process everything that’s happened the last few days.

“It’s shocking, to be honest with you,” Oats said. “I’m a believer, so a lot of prayer, a lot of Scripture reading, just to figure out what to tell the team. I’ve shared with them a few passages. I think you can learn from it. Hopefully our guys in the future make better choices. Hopefully you don’t have to learn from your own mistakes. Hopefully you can learn from other people’s mistakes.

“The basketball side of it became really, really unimportant for a while there, but the basketball side of it also gives us somewhere the team can pull together. It gives us something else to think about, because the severity of the situation is big. I mean, a young girl’s life was lost, and we’re really praying for Jamea’s family and her young son and everybody involved in the situation on her side of the family.”

Oats has been an outspoken follower of Christ during his four years as the head coach at Alabama and previous four at Buffalo. It’s a faith, he said, that was spurred on during his first year at Buffalo as his wife, Crystal, battled with cancer.

“There were circumstances surrounding that where I had to make some decisions about whether I wanted to be the Christian man that I said I was, or whether I wanted to be hypocritical,” Oats said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in October 2019. “I didn’t want that. … I really had a lot of introspection to where you evaluate where you’re at as a man and what you want.

“I really want my children to know me as a Christian father that demonstrates what it means to be a Christian to them.”

Crystal is now cancer free.

Now, despite his busy life leading a top-5 basketball program, Oats said he still makes sure to read the Bible every morning.

“My faith keeps me grounded. It keeps life in perspective,” Oats told Sports Spectrum in March 2019. “Winning and losing games isn’t the ultimate in God’s eyes; knowing and loving God and being loved by a gracious God is ultimate. How we treat others and how we point others to Jesus is what really matters. My daily quiet time with God in the Word keeps those truths at the forefront of my mind on a daily basis.”

Even as Oats seeks to come to grips with the recent events by turning to God in prayer and Bible reading, he will continue to lead and care for his players and fellow coaches as they try to refocus on their lofty basketball aspirations.

This tragedy comes in the midst of a dream season for Alabama. The Crimson Tide is 16-2, 6-0 in the SEC and its No. 4 ranking is the program’s highest since 2006. The team’s next step is a matchup at Missouri (14-4) on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.

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