Brandon Miller has entered a new phase of his basketball career, whether he likes it or not and whether he deserves it not. He got a firm reminder of that Saturday.
The star Alabama freshman received a fresh wave of backlash last weekend, when he did his usual pregame introduction, with teammate Adam Cottrell patting him down before he walked onto the court. Given the context — Miller was playing in his second game since it emerged that he delivered the gun that was used to kill 23-year-old mother Jamea Jonae Harris — the routine was insensitive at best.
Brandon Miller being introduced during the starting lineups pic.twitter.com/Fen0xT8V8L
— Ryan Hennessy (@RyanWVTM13) February 25, 2023
Alabama head coach Nate Oats, who has apologized multiple times for calling Miller's gun delivery being in the "wrong spot at the wrong time," called the introduction "not appropriate" after the game Saturday and pledged it wouldn't happen again.
When speaking with reporters three days later, Oats accepted blame and said Miller and his teammates "felt awful" about the situation, then explained that the intent of the introduction was supposedly that Miller was being cleared for takeoff by the TSA:
"That situation is on me. We addressed as a team. As soon as I brought it up to them, they immediately understood how it could be interpreted, and we all felt awful about it. They explained to me that it's like when TSA checks you before you get on a plane, and now Brandon's cleared for takeoff.
"We, as the adults in the room, should have been more sensitive to how it could have been interpreted. I dropped the ball. That's it. I dropped the ball on it. We've addressed it. I can assure you that it won't happen again."
Miller, projected to be a top-five pick in the 2023 NBA draft, was reported last week to have delivered a gun to then-Alabama teammate Darius Miles that was later used by another man, Michael Davis, to kill Harris on Jan. 15. Miller's attorney later released a statement saying that his client was not aware Miles had left the gun in his car and learned about it on his way to pick Miles up.
Miles and Davis both now face capital murder charges, but Miller has not been charged with a crime. Tuscaloosa chief assistant district attorney Paula Whitley said last week that "there’s nothing we could charge him with," apparently because there is no evidence that Miller knew the gun would be used in a crime when his friend asked him to bring it to a nightclub late at night.
Miller has not seen any official repercussions from Alabama, as the school and program have allowed him to continue playing. Harris' parents have forcefully denounced that decision, calling it "unimaginable."
With Alabama ranked No. 2 and on track for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, this story clearly isn't going away for the Tide or Miller.