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What Nate Oats thinks of Alabama basketball roster, plus newcomers like Cliff Omoruyi

BIRMINGHAM — Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats seems to like where the roster stands if the way he talked Tuesday is any indication.

"We've got a chance to win a national championship with the team we've got coming back," Oats said at Yea Alabama's Tide on Tour.

Alabama's roster may or may not be finalized yet, depending on what Mark Sears and Jarin Stevenson decide. Both declared for the NBA Draft while maintaining their eligibility to return to college with the deadline fast approaching on May 29.

Even with those decisions pending, Oats spoke highly of many pieces on the roster, which has added a handful of transfers and freshmen. Here's what Oats said about other parts of the roster, speaking for the first time publicly about many of the additions.

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Nate Oats on Grant Nelson, Latrell Wrightsell Jr. returning to Alabama basketball

Nelson and Wrightsell were seniors this past season, but both decided to stay for one more season with the Crimson Tide. Both were starters on the team that went to the Final Four, though Wrightsell missed some time with injuries.

"It was huge," Oats said of bringing them back. "Like to have some veteran guys. I thought Grant was just coming around. Got healthy. Saw what he was capable of in that North Carolina game. Latrell I think was the fourth most efficient player in the country on KenPom, so he figured out how to play in our system. We’ve got to try to keep him healthier next year. Get a full year out of him. Both of those guys know how to play in our system. Have been in it. I think they can look at the jump guys make from year 1 to year 2 in our system, and hopefully they can both make big jumps."

Apr 6, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Grant Nelson (2) attempts to block a shot by Connecticut Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) in the semifinals of the men's Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Rondone/Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Grant Nelson (2) attempts to block a shot by Connecticut Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) in the semifinals of the men's Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Rondone/Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports

On Cliff Omoruyi, the former Rutgers center

Omoruyi was a big addition, literally and figuratively. Alabama finally secured a rim protector, and one who's 6-foot-11.

"I think he’s going to really improve our defense," Oats said. "We were able to make a Final Four, but defensively, we weren’t where we needed to be last year. Everybody we recruited, we wanted to make sure could really guard."

Feb 29, 2024; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights center Clifford Omoruyi (11) reacts after a dunk during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Jersey Mike's Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 29, 2024; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights center Clifford Omoruyi (11) reacts after a dunk during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Jersey Mike's Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Aden Holloway, the former Auburn guard

Alabama brought in the former five-star guard after he played one season for the in-state rival.

"He’s a super skilled guard," Oats said. "He can pass, dribble, shoot. We’ve done really well with those guards who can pass, dribble, shoot. HE can really stretch the floor. We lost Aaron Estrada. There’s a lot of minutes there. Aaron played great for us last year. Mark plays well with the ball, Mark plays well without the ball. I think Aden can play with or without the ball. We like to have all of our perimeter players be able to shoot the ball. Aden can really pass but he can really shoot it too. We’re looking forward to getting him on the floor. I think he will be great in our system."

Mar 22, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Auburn Tigers guard Aden Holloway (1) attempts a layup against Yale Bulldogs guard Bez Mbeng (2) during the second half of a game in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Auburn Tigers guard Aden Holloway (1) attempts a layup against Yale Bulldogs guard Bez Mbeng (2) during the second half of a game in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

On Chris Youngblood, the former South Florida guard

Oats doesn't think the addition of Youngblood has received enough attention, considering Youngblood was the AAC Co-player of the year this past season for the Bulls.

"Youngblood gives us that tough, physical, versatile guard," Oats said. "If you like to play four guards, he’s big, strong, physical. Tough. Can play him kind of more as a 2, (then) can be really big across the board."

Mar 16, 2024; Fort Worth, TX, USA; South Florida Bulls guard Kobe Knox (4) celebrates with South Florida Bulls guard Chris Youngblood (3) after scoring a three point basket against the UAB Blazers during the first half at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2024; Fort Worth, TX, USA; South Florida Bulls guard Kobe Knox (4) celebrates with South Florida Bulls guard Chris Youngblood (3) after scoring a three point basket against the UAB Blazers during the first half at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

What Nate Oats said about other additions

As Oats mentioned, the staff wanted guys who can guard. As Oats rattled off additions, both transfers and freshmen, he often highlighted defensive capability.

"Houston Mallette’s got length and can guard," Oats said. "Chris Youngblood has real size and can guard. Grant’s coming back. You look at Derrion Reid, a big, strong, tough, physical guard. Wing. Aiden Sherrell is long and athletic. Labaron (Philon) is athletic. You go down that whole list. Naas Cunningham with his length. You kind of get back to two years ago when Brandon Miller, Naas is long like that. Then you have a rim protector to go with it. I think we’re in a great spot."

Nick Kelly is the Alabama beat writer for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network, and he covers Alabama football and men's basketball. Reach him at nkelly@gannett.com or follow him @_NickKelly on X, the social media app formerly known as Twitter.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama basketball roster: Nate Oats shares his thoughts