Nothing could have prepared Nate Oats for the challenges he would face this season as the leader of the Alabama men’s basketball program. The Crimson Tide were 15-2 when former player Darius Miles was charged with the murder of 23-year-old Jamea Harris on Jan. 15.
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A month later, Alabama owns the top spot in the Associated Press poll having lost just once since Dec. 17. The last time the Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 in the country was Jan. 5, 2003.
For the first time since the 2002-03 season the Crimson Tide are #1 in the @AP_Top25!#RollTide | #BlueCollarBasketball pic.twitter.com/pDxTY7BLcA
— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) February 13, 2023
The team’s most recent victory came Saturday, when the Crimson Tide picked up a 77-69 road win over archrival Auburn to remain undefeated in conference play. Oats said after the game he thought it was the most hostile environment he’d experienced in the SEC.
“They don’t like Alabama over here very well,” he said postgame. “It’s a lot better to be booed than to have the court stormed and have to try to figure out how to get off. I know it was their Super Bowl. It’s always nice to come win over here when we got their best version I feel like.”
𝑷𝒍𝒂𝒊𝒏 & simple. #RTR pic.twitter.com/jTrV47yxfv
— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) February 12, 2023
Oats came on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in January to discuss what it’s been like leading a team through such a tragic event, and he shared how God has been at work even in such horrific circumstances.
“I think sometimes you need to get tested to see what your mental toughness is and see where things are at,” he said on the podcast. “I think we’ve seen some guys that are pretty mentally tough to go through what they’ve had to go through and still been able to be locked in and play like they have. I know for a fact it’s brought some guys closer to God.”
Oats has relied heavily on prayer and Scripture as he tries to care for everyone affected by the incident and make sure his players are prepared when they take the court. His faith has been a source of strength and guidance.
“Whether it’s our own bad decisions we’ve got to move on from, or it’s situations that we’ve been put in that we have nothing to do with that caused a lot of adversity in our life, God helps you be able to move on,” he said on the podcast. “He gives you the strength to do that.”
This season has reminded Oats that God doesn’t need someone to be perfect for Him to use them in remarkable ways. Oats said on the podcast he is currently reading through the Bible in chronological order and was struck by the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis.
Well aware of his own sins and imperfections, Oats has wondered at times if he is equipped to have so much responsibility in such a difficult situation. He’s also been reminded that the Bible is full of people who felt the same way.
“If you turn to God, God will help you despite your own imperfections and sins. … God uses imperfect people,” Oats said. “Don’t feel like you’ve got to have your whole life together. Maybe you’ve got stuff in your life that you’re dealing with but there’s other areas of your life that He needs you to step up and be a leader for.”
Alabama takes the court again Wednesday for a top-10 showdown with Tennessee. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is at 7 p.m. ET.
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