Nate Oats: 'We did screw up' not recruiting Mark Sears out of high school

On3 imageby:Thomas Goldkamp04/02/24
Nate Oats talks Final Four before leaving for Phoenix | Alabama Basketball

It hasn’t been a short journey by any means, but Mark Sears has gone from a mostly overlooked high school prospect to a superstar on a Final Four team with sights set on a national title in just four years.

Even his Alabama coach didn’t necessarily see that come-up coming.

“I mean he didn’t have any high-major scholarships coming out of high school,” Nate Oats said. “We probably screwed up and didn’t offer him out of high school. That’s probably not a probably, we did screw up.

“He goes to Ohio, he’s pretty good. I was in that league. I called a lot of coaches in the league, they said, ‘Yeah, he’s good enough for you.’ Nobody told me he was going to be this good. I didn’t think he was going to be this good when we got him. Even last year I think he surprised a lot of people being the second-leading scorer on the No. 1 team in the country. “

How good is Mark Sears?

Well, all he’s done this year is average 21.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He’s done it while shooting a blistering 43.4% from 3-point range.

Take a look at Sears’ career trajectory and it’s a jagged, but easily identifiable, upward trend.

“He’s literally improved every single summer from high school, to prep school, to freshman year,” Oats said. “Didn’t shoot it well his freshman year, to sophomore year. He keeps improving. But that’s because he works. I mean he gets in the gym and really works, like we’re at the last week of the season, we practiced yesterday morning, he’s back here in the afternoon, I wouldn’t doubt if he’s in at night. Like he comes in and works.”

Mark Sears shot just 28.6% from 3-point range as a freshman at Ohio, then improved it to 40.8% as a sophomore. Then he made the jump to Alabama. He shot 34.5% from 3-point range against the increased competition, then made the jump to 43.4% this year.

He’s been virtually unstoppable at times. Oats can’t help but marvel at the come-up.

“Did I think he was going to be this good? Look, nobody did,” Oats said, getting a sly grin on his face. “Maybe his mom did. His dad’s pretty confident, too. He’s got great family. I don’t think anybody thought like Most Outstanding Player in the regionals to send us to the Final Four.”

Sears earned those honors after going for 18 points against 1-seed North Carolina in the Sweet 16, then dropping 23 in the Elite Eight win over Clemson.

The scary part? Oats thinks Mark Sears is still getting better. That’s scary news for the rest of the remaining NCAA Tournament field.

“I’ll say this, when he did get here and started playing live last summer, he was better than I thought, better point guard, better at everything,” Oats said. “Really shot it well. He’s just continued to improve in all aspects.

“I really think his leadership and his defense have significantly improved here over the last month, which has enabled us to get where we’re getting. If his leadership and defense don’t improve like it has, we’re not playing right now. Our season’s over. Because of that we’re still playing and I mean he’s as good all-around guard as there is in the country over the last month or so.”