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Nate Oats on Alabama basketball player Darius Miles' character prior to arrest: 'Nobody saw this coming'

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

The only character concerns that arose when former Alabama basketball player Darius Miles was evaluated during his recruitment had to do with basketball, rather than personal character, Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said Friday.

Miles is one of two men charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Jamea Jonae Harris, 23, early Sunday. He is being held without bond, and a probable cause hearing has been set for Feb. 7.

Oats said Miles' recruitment occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, which required contact via Zoom and phone calls rather than in-person, but said he was confident in Miles' character as a high school recruit.

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"You get the typical 'He's so talented, sometimes maybe he takes plays off,' but that had nothing to do with his character off the floor at all. There were zero off-the-floor character issues when we recruited him. And to be honest with you, even when he was here, we had no real issues with him off the floor," Oats said. "He was a likable kid, everybody liked (him). The only issues we ever had were to try to get him motivated to play a little harder in practice, be more consistent, just basketball stuff. Nobody saw this coming."

According to arrest warrants made public earlier this week, Miles told police he provided a handgun to Michael Lynn Davis prior to the shooting, and that witnesses identified Davis as the shooter. Investigators believe the shooting stemmed from a minor argument between Harris, Miles, and Davis.

Harris and an unidentified man were in a vehicle when she was killed by a single gunshot wound. The unidentified man returned fire, and The Tuscaloosa News has authenticated a video in which at least 11 shots can be heard in an exchange of gunfire.

Per the motion for bond filed on Miles' behalf Thursday, he had no prior criminal history, according to his attorneys.

Oats said he tries to go deeper than recommendations from high school coaches in evaluating the character of recruits.

"The coach usually doesn't want to say anything (bad) about a kid, and we get that. We get a somewhat honest eval from most coaches, but they want their kids to go to the highest level they can, if that makes sense. You get a little more honesty when you start calling the teachers, the principals, guidance counselors. ... We were at a school, me and Brian (Hodgson) were, a couple weeks ago in Ohio. We talked to the night custodian. They had practice in the evening, so that's the custodian that's around the team all the time when nobody else is around. You find a lot more out about kids doing some research like that."

Oats also said he's advised his team on how to handle the possibility that students or fans of other teams, during Alabama road games, might say derogatory things to players about the charges against Miles. Oats said there were no such issues at the Crimson Tide's game at Vanderbilt earlier this week. UA travels to Missouri on Saturday.

"If people want to be ignorant and say things that are completely out of line ... this isn't a case where somebody got in some light trouble. These are serious matters. There is a 5-year-old that doesn't have a mother anymore," Oats said. "This is not, to me, something students should be joking about. If somebody does happen to say something, I told our guys 'You've got to be strong enough, tough enough, to just say 'We're here to play basketball.'"

Reach Chase Goodbread at cgoodbread@gannett.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.