Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats said Thursday evening that his “gut feeling” is that guard JD Davison will turn professional this summer.
Davison, who won the state’s Mr. Basketball award in 2020 and 2021, has until April 24 to enter the NBA draft and until June 1 to withdraw from it and retain NCAA eligibility.
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“I don’t have an answer for sure,” Oats told The Field of 68 at the Final Four in New Orleans. “When we brought him, the plan was one-and-done. He’s athletic. He’s on a lot of first-round boards. The feedback we’re getting is he’s still, like, second half of the first round, early second.”
Davison is the No. 38 overall player as ranked by ESPN, falling from a No. 11 ranking by that outlet in September. There are 30 picks in the first round of the NBA draft and 60 picks overall.
“If a kid’s gonna get guaranteed first-round money, it’s hard to tell them to stay,” Oats said. “You’re not going right by the kid. My thing is all the way back to a high school coach is just do right by the kid and it’ll all work itself out in the end.
“My gut feeling is that he stays in the draft because he’s got such ridiculous upside and his best basketball is years down the road. He’s shown that he can do enough that he’s going to be drafted. That’s a family decision and I’m not making it for him.”
Davison, a five-star prospect who played at The Calhoun School in Letohatchee, averaged 8.5 points and 4.3 assists per game as a freshman. He only started six games but finished fourth on the team in averaging 25.8 minutes.
“To be honest with you, a kid like him is going to get drafted on his upside,” Oats said. “Could he have played better as a freshman? Yeah, but can’t most freshmen play better? That’s the whole thing.”
Oats noted that even the draft’s top projected players — Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren — could benefit from more time in college basketball.
“Chet, there’s a lot of holes in his game,” Oats said. “Still gonna go top three. Jabari’s got holes in his game. A lot of people said, ‘Man, JD could really use another year with you.’ Couldn’t they all?”
The 2022 NBA draft will be held June 23.
“If a kid’s not in the first round, it’s probably better [to return],” Oats said.
Alabama has no players with expiring NCAA eligibility this offseason so its entire roster has decisions to make about their futures. Forward Noah Gurley has already told Oats he will return for a sixth season, while the Tide honored Keon Ellis, James Rojas and Jahvon Quinerly on senior day with the expectation they will not be back. Three other players — forwards Alex Tchikou and Keon Ambrose-Hylton, and guard Jusaun Holt — have entered the NCAA transfer portal.
The Tide has looked to the transfer portal itself, recently hosting Princeton guard Jaelin Llewellyn on a visit and contactingamong others, Ohio guard and Muscle Shoals native Mark Sears.
“We’ve got transfers we’re on that we feel good about,” Oats said Thursday on The Field of 68.
Oats also reiterated his feeling that Alabama’s season, which ended with four consecutive losses and a first-round NCAA tournament exit, had positives that might have been overshadowed by its upset loss as a No. 6 seed to No. 11 seed Notre Dame.
“I think that was the highest seed in 17 years in Alabama basketball outside of last year. If this year hadn’t followed up last year, people might be happy with it,” Oats said. “Inside the program we’re a little disappointed because we knew what we were capable of by the wins we had.”
Oats noted Alabama went 4-0 against teams that made the Sweet 16 in Gonzaga, Houston, Arkansas and Miami.
“But if you look at it overall, we’re still headed the right direction, we still feel like. We’ve got a great recruiting class coming in,” he said. “I think we’ll be better next year. I think the program is definitely headed in the right direction.”
Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.