As Josh Primo NBA Draft projections come in, Alabama basketball waits patiently | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News
Jan 12, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Alex Reese (3) and guard Josh Primo (11) block Kentucky Wildcats forward Keion Brooks Jr. (12) during the first half at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. Mandatory Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When the Alabama basketball program added two high profile April transfers, Noah Gurley from Furman and former McDonald’s All-America Nimari Burnett from Texas Tech, roster-watchers immediately went to their calculators to try and determine how Nate Oats would assign 15 players to 13 spots. 

One spot came open quickly as junior college forward Langston Wilson asked for a release from the scholarship papers he signed last November, perhaps because he could read the writing on the playing-time wall, possibly aided by Alabama’s staff holding a flashlight to that handwriting. At any rate, Wilson was quickly signed by the Washington Huskies and Alabama was still one over its limit.

Oats urged patience. Nothing had to be finalized before the fall semester, and all college sports – but basketball in particular – are in a brave new world of player movement, a sort of Hartsfield International Airport in which players come and go quickly and daily developments reshape rosters. 

Think of it this way: among the programs in the Southeastern Conference, one could make the argument that Alabama’s roster is the most stable, even though it is mid-May and Oats doesn’t know yet whether the 2021-22 Crimson Tide roster has to be trimmed, whether he can stand pat or, remarkably, whether there might be room to recruit someone else.

The Crimson Tide has two players waiting on NBA Draft workouts and evaluations, perimeter players Josh Primo and Jaden Shackelford. When the two declared for the NBA Draft and left the door open return, the general wisdom was that both would be back.

“General Wisdom,” though, is not an NBA General Manager. Primo has always been considered an eventual NBA first-round choice, but many thought his age (17) would give teams pause. But the NBA is not the NFL, and teams are willing to overlook youth for potential. (Were it not for NFLPA restrictions, more NFL teams would roll the dice on teenagers, too.) Suddenly, Primo’s name has been climbing and first-round status seems likely with good reviews in the next four weeks.

2021 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections with Regular Season Complete

The deadline for an early entry player to withdraw from the NBA Draft is Monday, July 19, at 4 p.m. CT. Primo does have an NCAA-certified agent and a path to return, but if he and his agent feel strongly that a team has its mind made up, it would be hard to see him turning down a first-round slot. Players can, and do, come back to college basketball sometimes to enhance their stock but the older one gets (and the operative parameter for “old” is now roughly 20,) the more pressure there is from the next year’s teenagers. 

UCLA forward Cody Riley (2) and Alabama guard Jaden Shackelford (5) chase a loose ball in the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The general wisdom on Shackelford, Alabama’s leading scorer last season but somewhat smaller than the NBA prototype for a shooting guard, is that he’s unlikely to be drafted. But if 99 people out of 100 believe he shouldn’t return and the 100th is Shackelford, then who knows? Also, there are other paying options out there besides the NBA, although the route through Malaysia or Iceland isn’t easy.

In the meantime, the rest of the SEC continues wholesale roster-shuffling. Kentucky, LSU and Arkansas all seem to rebuilding from scratch and are simultaneously creating formidable-looking rosters. It’s been tougher for teams near the bottom like Georgia and Vanderbilt, but any preseason ranking for 2021 that was made two weeks ago is hopelessly out of date, and any one made today will be recycling-bin fodder by June 1. And not even the head coaches themselves know exactly what kind of teams they will have.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt