TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats maintains that he believes the university and his program have done the right thing in continuing to allow star freshman forward Brandon Miller to play after his name appeared in connection with a January shooting.
“We’ve been taking it very seriously from Day 1. The first minute that I got the information, I called [AD] Greg [Byrne] and we talked about it and the severity of it,” Oats said at a news conference. “Greg, I thought, did a great job addressing those comments on Wednesday, and I really don’t have much to add to it.
“We feel like we’ve done the right thing in this case. So I’m going to leave it at that with Greg’s comments.”
Miller’s name was mentioned in testimony Tuesday by investigator Branden Culpepper as having driven the vehicle containing the gun used in the shooting to his then-teammate, Darius Miles, who had asked Miller to bring him the weapon.
Miles, who has since been removed from the Crimson Tide’s program, and Michael Lynn Davis face capital murder charges in the death of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris, who was shot near campus in the early morning hours of Jan. 15. Miles admitted to providing the gun used in the shooting, according to investigators, but said Davis fired the weapon.
Miller has not been charged with a crime, and Tuscaloosa Chief Deputy District Attorney Paula Whitley told AL.com on Tuesday that “there’s nothing we could charge [Miller] with.”
Byrne told ESPN in an interview on the “College GameDay” podcast Wednesday that some of the “new information” that emerged — such as Miles’ text message asking Miller to bring the gun to the scene — affected the school’s decision to allow Miller to play Wednesday against South Carolina.
Miller went on to score a career-high 41 points in the 78-76 overtime win over the Gamecocks. It was the most points by a freshman in a Division I game this season and the most by an Alabama freshman in program history.
Jim Standridge, one of the attorneys representing Miller, also released a statement Wednesday saying Miller never saw Miles’ handgun and that it was “concealed under some clothing in the back seat” of Miller’s car. Standridge added that Miller never touched the gun nor was involved in its exchange to Davis, the alleged shooter.
Miller, whose windshield was hit by gunfire, left the scene when the shooting started.
Oats said he believed his players understood the gravity of the matter and that he believes the headspace of his team is “pretty good” entering Saturday’s home game against Arkansas.
When Oats was asked Friday if there had been changes to the oversight of his players following the shooting, he said he has spoken with them about the incident multiple times.
“Life’s fluid. Different circumstances bring up different areas to talk about. There’s different areas you need to educate your players on,” Oats said. “The world changes. As we’ve come across different situations, it’s hard to predict everything that everybody is going to get into. We’ve taken the opportunities as a basketball program and as an athletic department and as a university as a whole to address situations that have come up and taking that opportunity to educate our guys on different things like this.
“So the answer is yes, we’re using this as an opportunity to educate our players on stuff that hopefully will help them for the rest of their lives.”
Information from ESPN’s Jeff Borzello was used in this report.