Alabama basketball guard adds to Nate Oats' story of players skipping NCAA shootaround

Erik Hall
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama men's basketball player Britton Johnson clearly felt the backlash from head coach Nate Oats saying that players skipped voluntary shootaround prior to facing Notre Dame in the 2022 NCAA Tournament first round on Friday, March 18. 

The topic was the first thing Johnson addressed Monday on "The Mean Streets Podcast." 

"I think that was the most taken-out-of-context thing I've seen in a long time," Johnson said. "I think coach Oats really meant well by it. I don't think he was trying to throw guys under the bus or anything. I think it was more saying, 'Look, JQ was really ready to go, and he got up all these extra shots.' I think that was what he was trying to emphasize." 

After Notre Dame beat Alabama 78-64 on Friday, Oats told the media that Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly was the only player to attend a voluntary shootaround Thursday night prior to the game. 

"Shot it really well," Oats said of Quinerly at the Thursday night shootaround. "I thought he was ready to play, and three minutes into the game he gets the knee injury, can't play the rest of the game." 

Quinerly suffered a right knee injury with 16:31 left in the first half that kept him out the remainder of the game against Notre Dame. 

Britton Johnson offers Alabama player's perspective on missed shootaround

Johnson, who did not play in the game against Notre Dame, said on the podcast that he wanted "to paint the picture of what actually happened."

The Alabama basketball team arrived in San Diego for the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, March 15. Johnson said the team practiced in a high school gym every day it was in California and had an additional shootaround at night.

"Everyone in the rotation — and for sure everyone that would shoot a 3 in a game — was there every night," Johnson said of the Tuesday night and Wednesday night shootarounds.

Johnson, a senior guard, offered an explanation of what changed Thursday. 

Alabama head coach Nate Oats, right, celebrates with guard Britton Johnson standing behind him after a time out was called during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Alabama won 74-72. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

"We had already had a practice in that same high school gym, and then we had the live practice segment at Viejas Arena, which is the San Diego State arena," Johnson said. "Those 40 minutes (at Viejas Arena) that was our shooting time for the day. That was in essence our shootaround. So what had happened after that is JQ went up to coach and said, 'I'm not happy with the way I shot it today. Can I get extra shots up? Can I go get an extra shootaround?' We had already had a shootaround for the day, so can I get an extra shootaround. That's why voluntary was the word." 

Johnson said the team bus wasn't even used to go to the "extra shootaround" on Thursday night. He said just a van went. 

"That wasn't even in the schedule," Johnson said of the Thursday night shootaround. "Oats had planned on the shootaround being at Viejas Arena, which it was, and then us getting off our legs. We had a 1 p.m./1:15 p.m. Pacific Time tipoff, and usually when you play the 11 o'clock, 12 o'clock, 1 o'clock games, you don't have a shootaround that morning and you try to get off your legs as much as possible after your last practice or after the last time you're on the court." 

Johnson said that it was an option for players "heavy in the rotation" to go to Viejas Arena at 7:30 a.m. PT on Friday to get 15 to 20 minutes of shooting practice prior to facing Notre Dame. 

"A few of our guys did," Johnson said. "It would have been completely fine for them not to. For a 1 o'clock game, we had never had a shootaround all year, so that would have been kind of a strange thing to have it." 

Britton Johnson says response to missed shootaround 'rubbed me the wrong way'

The way fans responded to the players not going through shootaround didn't sit well with Johnson. 

"To be honest, the response to it kind of rubbed me the wrong way," Johnson said. "A — because it was so taken out of context. B — you can say a lot of things about what went wrong for this program this year, but being a guy that was there for Avery Johnson, the program under him and playing under him, and then playing under Oats for three years, I can tell you this program has transformed into one of the hardest working programs in the country. That's something we hang our hat on." 

Avery Johnson preceded Oats as the Alabama head coach from 2015-19. 

Alabama finished the 2021-22 season at 19-14 overall. 

This was Oats' third season as the Alabama head coach. He previously took Alabama to the NCAA Tournament during the 2020-21 season. Alabama's 2020-21 season ended with an 88-78 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 loss to No. 11-seeded UCLA.  

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The Alabama men’s basketball program made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament during the 1974-75 season. Alabama has never reached the Final Four. The furthest Alabama has advanced in the NCAA Tournament is to the Elite Eight in 2003-04. 

Erik Hall is the lead digital producer for sports with the USA Today Network. You can find him on Twitter @HallErik.