Nate Oats needed to sign his transfer portal top scorer again over the summer, but Jaden Shackelford’s decision to return to Tuscaloosa appears to be paying off for both teams.
Shackelford scored a record 20 points in Alabama’s 86-59 win over Oakland on Friday night, surpassing the 1,000-point mark for his career while continuing to establish himself as Tide’s top scorer, 14th .
The junior, who averages 19.5 points on average in four games, also won the Oats Safety Helmet Award for the game for his “blue collar points” earned for his efforts.
“He was really locked in and playing hard on both ends of the pitch,” Oats said. “I kind of say to our guys, ‘Lose yourself in the game. Play hard and the offense will come. That’s what happened with him tonight.
The third-year coach sent similar praise to the rest of his squad, who recovered from an ugly victory on Tuesday against South Alabama to win more comfortably over their Horizon League foe on Friday at Coleman Coliseum.
“I thought it was our most complete game of the year,” he said. “We talked to our team about playing both sides of the ball for a whole 40 minutes. I thought we were as close as we have been all year. I’m really happy with our defensive effort. I thought offensively, we didn’t really shoot – we didn’t shoot well from three – but we were able to score 86 points in a difficult area [defense]. “
Oats felt Alabama played well offensively in a win last week over South Dakota State, then used his defense to push back South Alabama this week. But putting both sides of the ball together was the goal of practice this weekend.
“Everyone has been laser focused for the past two days,” said guard Jahvon Quinerly. “It just showed how we played tonight. “
Quinerly scored eight of Alabama’s top 10 points to avoid slow starts that were problematic early in the season for the Tide. He finished with 19 points and was joined by two double-digit freshmen JD Davison and Charles Bediako. Davison (10 points) and Bediako (12 points) combined for a first-half alley-oop that energized the Coleman Coliseum crowd at the end of a four-game home opener.
Shackelford shot 7 of 17 and 3 of 11 three-pointers as he continued to post a 1-for-14 performance in his rearview mirror.
“He and I spoke after the show,” Oats said. “He was here shooting late one night. I said I’m not really stressed out. You won’t play so badly anymore. It’s not who you are. We’ve all seen what you can do for two years. I think it gave him a bit more motivation to be in the gym.
“He played sports a lot. He’s a hard-working child. He’s really good. He’s trying to be our boss. He’s trying to play the right way.
The junior was called up for two flop warnings by officials in Friday night’s game, the second shooting a Class B technical foul. Oakland was called for a flop warning.
“I didn’t even realize they gave us the warning,” Oats said. “I didn’t know when the warning came and all of a sudden the second and it was a class B technique. We’ll have to watch that a bit more.
Alabama (14-0) will not play at home until December 11. He will travel to Orlando next week, opening the ESPN Events Invitational against Iona on Thursday. He will play either Drake or Belmont on Friday, and has a potential meeting with Kansas next Sunday depending on tournament results.
Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on twitter @mikeroda