Alabama hires Austin Claunch as assistant coach

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nate Oats hired Nicholls State head coach Austin Claunch to fill one of his three vacancies on the bench.

Oats announced the hiring of Claunch, who led Nicholls State to 90 wins over the last five seasons and back-to-back Southland Conference regular season titles. He was the league’s 2021 coach of the year.

Oats lost three assistants to head coaching jobs after leading the Crimson Tide to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Bryan Hodgson left for Arkansas State, Charlie Henry took over at Georgia Southern and Antoine Pettway went to Kennesaw State.

“Austin is one of the hardest working guys in the business,” Oats said. “His work as a head coach at Nicholls was unbelievable with one of the lowest budgets in the country. He has won two out of the last three regular season championships in the Southland Conference and that is a credit to his hard work and his energy.

Claunch was the youngest Division I men’s basketball coach from 2018-21. He went 90-61 at Nicholls State.

Report: Alabama’s Brandon Miller declares for NBA draft

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Alabama All-American forward Brandon Miller is heading to the NBA after displaying versatile talent and athleticism in a lone season of college ball that was blemished by revelations he was present at a fatal shooting in January near campus.

ESPN first reported on Miller’s decision, and a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed the report to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Miller hadn’t yet made an official declaration for the draft.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound freshman, who was one of the nation’s top high school recruits, is projected as a potential top 5 draft pick.

Miller displayed his accurate 3-point shooting and athleticism in the most productive season of any freshman in Alabama history. He led the Tide to their first No. 1 ranking in 20 years and first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.

Miller averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds while hitting 38% from 3-point range. But he was scoreless in his first March Madness game, and went 3 of 19 and scored just nine points in a Sweet 16 loss to San Diego State.

Miller was described as a cooperating witness after the Jan. 15 shooting and was never charged with a crime.

But he and the Tide were dogged by off-court questions for the final two months of the season. Former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris, who was killed in early on Jan. 15.

Miller and fellow freshman Jaden Bradley were placed at the scene as well. According to police testimony, Miller brought Miles his gun. Miller’s attorney said the Tide forward was on his way to pick Miles up when Miles texted asking him to bring the weapon, but that Miller never handled the gun and didn’t know any criminal activity was intended.

Miller received threats after the news came out, and was accompanied by a university-provided security guard. “It doesn’t bother me,” Miller said of the threats at the NCAA regional in Birmingham, Alabama, “I send it to the right people and they handle it.”

Alabama finished the season 31-6 and won the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

San Diego State ousts No. 1 overall seed Alabama from NCAAs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Darrion Trammell and San Diego State used a dominant defensive performance to knock top overall seed Alabama out of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, bottling up All-America freshman Brandon Miller in a 71-64 victory in the Sweet 16.

Trammell scored 21 points while Miller, whose outstanding season was marred by off-the-court complications, was held to nine points on 3-of-19 shooting and had six turnovers.

The fifth-seeded Aztecs (30-6) will face either Creighton or Princeton on Sunday in the West Region final as they seek their first Final Four in program history. With fellow No. 1 seeds Purdue and Kansas losing during the tournament’s first weekend, Houston – which played Miami on Friday night – was the only top-seeded team remaining.

San Diego State trailed 48-39 midway through the second half before going on a 12-0 run and controlling the game from there. The Aztecs finished with eight blocked shots – five by Nathan Mensah – and forced 14 turnovers.

The March Madness run of Alabama (31-6) was clouded by its response to the Jan. 15 fatal shooting of a 23-year-old woman in Tuscaloosa, which led to capital murder charges against a then-Crimson Tide player, Darius Miles.

Miller was at the scene of the shooting and has not been charged, but police have said in court documents that Miles texted Miller to bring him his gun. Authorities have said Miller is a cooperating witness, and he did not miss any playing time. Miller has received armed security protection during the tournament.

Mark Sears had 16 points and Jahvon Quinerly and Charles Bediako scored 10 each for Alabama, which shot 32% overall and a miserable 3 of 27 (11.1%) from 3-point range. The Crimson Tide fell short of the second Elite Eight berth in school history.

“Alabama’s a great team. They have a lot of talented players and individuals,” Trammell said. “We knew it was going to be hard. It was a dogfight. Very physical.”

Sears’ layup got Alabama within 66-64 with 46 seconds remaining, but Matt Bradley made two free throws and Micah Parrish followed by making three of four attempts, including two with 17 seconds left.

Jaedon LeDee finished with 12 points for the Aztecs.

No. 1 seed Alabama beats Maryland 73-51 in drama-free game

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Before Alabama took the court, two No. 1 seeds had fallen and a third had to rally from a double-digit deficit.

By comparison, the Crimson Tide had a drama-free night.

Jahvon Quinerly scored 22 points, Brandon Miller heated up with 19 and top overall seed Alabama brushed aside Maryland 73-51 behind a dominant second half Saturday.

The second-round romp followed a 21-point blowout of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the Tide’s tournament opener.

“I feel like our job’s not done,” Miller said. “We’re here to win a national championship.”

The Crimson Tide (31-5) advanced to their second Sweet 16 in the past three tournaments and ninth overall. Alabama will face fifth-seeded San Diego State in the South Region semifinals Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.

Before the late-night game, Purdue and defending national champion Kansas had lost, and No. 1 seed Houston trailed Tide rival Auburn by 10 points at halftime earlier at Legacy Arena before pulling away.

“Of course we watched those games and that was crazy,” Quinerly said. “But Coach (Nate Oats) didn’t really address the team.

“We all know anybody can win in March. We just kind of focused on the task at hand.”

Alabama and Miller got off to a slow start, but the All-America freshman and top NBA prospect wound up with a more typical performance after going scoreless in the first-round game. Miller has been nursing a groin injury and missed his first nine shots of the tournament.

“It seems the more he goes, the looser it got,” Oats said. “He didn’t have the same pop. He was 3 of 11 on 2s. A lot of those were at the rim. His finishing has been really good. He definitely wasn’t 100%. He’s a tough kid. He’s playing through some stuff. He doesn’t let people know he’s hurt.”

Quinerly had a big game on the one-year anniversary of his left knee injury early in a second-round loss to Notre Dame, which still limited him early this season. He shot 4 of 6 on 3-pointers.

Maryland coach Kevin Willard had offered the New Jersey native a scholarship while at Seton Hall when Quinerly was just a ninth-grader.

Charles Bediako had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Alabama’s starters hit the bench with a couple of minutes left to chants of “Sweet 16” in the friendly crowd.

“It’s been unbelievable to play in front of our hometown fans to have a chance to go to the Sweet 16,” Oats said.

Julian Reese had 14 points for Maryland (22-13) before fouling out. Jahmir Young scored 12.

Reese scored seven quick points but picked up his second foul three minutes into the game and only played four minutes in the first half, picking up a quick third.

“His first foul was a foul. But the second one was mysterious, and the third one was the game,” Willard said. “You can’t call that second foul in a physical game. It was a horrible call. It changed the game.

“I’ll elaborate as much as you want. Do you want me to get in a little bit of trouble or a lot of trouble? But the second call was a terrible foul call. A horrible call. It changed our whole game plan. We were gonna pound it inside, pound it inside.”

The Tide wound up with a 44-32 rebounding advantage.

Alabama had an easy time in the end, unlike the other No. 1 seeds.

No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson toppled top-seeded Purdue 63-58 on Friday night in only the second such upset. Then No. 8 seed Arkansas beat the Jayhawks 72-71 earlier Saturday. Houston ultimately pulled away from Auburn as the Tide waited for their opportunity.

The first half was more to Maryland’s liking – other than the 28-23 deficit – for a team that came in giving up just 63 points a game.


Maryland: The 2002 national champion Terps failed to make their 15th trip to the Sweet 16 in Willard’s first season. They also lost to Alabama in the second round two years ago under former coach Mark Turgeon. Maryland’s defense was on point enough that it kept the lead for much of the first half despite a stretch of nine straight misses.

Alabama: It was the largest win in NCAA Tournament history by a team that shot under 40% overall and under 30% on 3-pointers, according to STATS. … Alabama’s depth has been on display so far. The Tide controlled the game despite not getting much scoring from starters Mark Sears and Noah Clowney or Nick Pringle, the star of the opening game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.


Alabama faces a San Diego State team making its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2004, which was also the year of the Tide’s only Elite Eight run. The Crimson Tide have never reached the Final Four.

“I know San Diego State’s defense is elite,” Oats said.

No. 1 seed Alabama rolls past Texas A&M-CC; Miller scoreless

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Alabama buried Texas A&M-Corpus Christi under an early 3-point onslaught, launching the NCAA Tournament’s top seed to a 96-75 first-round romp on Thursday even with star freshman Brandon Miller going scoreless.

The Crimson Tide (30-5) set aside their off-court distractions and buried 10 first-half 3s in a predictably easy win over the 16th-seeded Islanders (24-11) at Legacy Arena, less than an hour from campus.

Miller, the 6-foot-9 All-American who has been beset by questions about his presence at the scene of a fatal shooting, sat out the final 14 minutes and missed all five field goal attempts while dealing with a groin injury. His previous low was eight points against Houston on Dec. 10.

“We’re making shots at a pretty high level,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “It’s nice to put up 96 without Brandon scoring any of them. He’s been nursing a groin injury. We want to play him limited minutes and were able to keep him under 20.”

Of course, none of the starters played more than 21 minutes, resting up for the next round.

“It doesn’t really matter how much I score. I think our whole team are just winners,” Miller said. “The final score at the end of the game, that’s what we care about.”

Miller hasn’t been accused of any crime in the shooting, which led to capital murder charges against then-teammate Darius Miles and another man.

Alabama coasted after leading 54-34 by the half and advanced to play eighth-seeded Maryland on Saturday in the South Region.

Nick Pringle, a junior college transfer who came in averaging 3 points per game, scored 17 and had a season-high 13 rebounds. Mark Sears made three 3s in a 58-second span of the first half and scored 15 points. Jahvon Quinerly scored 13 and Nimari Burnett had 11.

Noah Clowney scored all 10 of his points in the first five-plus minutes, including three 3s.

Trevian Tennyson led the Islanders with 20 points. Isaach Mushula scored 16 and Owen Dease 14. The Islanders have never beaten a ranked team.

Coach Steve Lutz has lifted the Islanders to two straight NCAA Tournaments since taking over a team that had gone 5-19 the year before his arrival.

The Islanders were without Terrion Murdix (left knee injury), the Southland League defensive player of the year.

“They should be very, very proud of themselves,” Lutz said.

His team did muster an 8-0 flurry early in the second half to cut the deficit to 13 points. But the momentum didn’t last.

“They’re a great team. They answered back,” Tennyson said. “They have a chance to win the national title.”


Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: Advanced with its first tourney win in a play-in game against Southeast Missouri State. Was only outscored 42-41 in the second half.

Alabama: Made 8 of 11 3s early and 15 of 33 (45.5%) overall. Got to play in an arena full of crimson-and-white against an overmatched opponent.

“When we came out of the tunnel, I had chills,” Sears said. “Just seeing all the love we had. It was just an unbelievable experience.”

Alabama’s Brandon Miller has security guard due to threats

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Alabama star Brandon Miller was accompanied by an armed security guard to the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday because of threats directed his way, Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said.

“If you guys saw some of what I’ve seen sent his way, I think you would understand why that’s the case,” Oats said of the extra protection that the school lined up for Miller. “I don’t want to get into all that. The entire situation, as you know, is just a heartbreaking situation on all accounts.”

Miller name surfaced last month in court testimony involving the capital murder case of former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man, who are charged in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris on Jan. 15.

A police officer testified that Miles texted Miller asking him to bring Miles’ gun in the early morning hours of the shooting. Fellow freshman starter Jaden Bradley was also at the scene. Neither Miller nor Bradley has been accused of any crime, and the university has described Miller as a cooperating witness, not a suspect.

The Crimson Tide (29-5) is a No. 1 seed in the tournament for the first time in school history. They play their opening game in the South Regional on Thursday, facing No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Birmingham – less than an hour’s drive from the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.

The guard, who wore a gun, badge and Alabama polo shirt, accompanied Miller to the interview area and later watched him take part in a light practice.

The freshman, who was the Southeastern Conference player and newcomer of the year, declined to go into specifics about the extra security, implying it was nothing unusual.

“I always travel with security to all the games,” Miller said. “That’s all I’m gonna say on that.”

But Oats conceded it was hardly business as usual.

“Some of the messages from people that can sit behind fake email addresses, but who knows whether they’re real or not,” Oats said. “But if you’d seen what I’ve seen, you would understand what’s going on right now.”

Oats added that he looks at all his players like his own children: “I put myself in his parents’ shoes, and our administration has seen the stuff that’ve I’ve seen. It’s appropriate. But it’s nothing a college kid should have to go through.”

After his name came light in the case, Miller received a harsh reception during a victory at South Carolina, where the crowd chanted “lock him up” and “guilty.”

Miller has repeatedly declined to discuss details of the case, saying last week only that he’s relied on the camaraderie of his teammates to cope with issues off the court.

“I just lean on my teammates,” he said. “They’re like family for me away from home.”