TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama basketball just added another weapon to its already-loaded arsenal.
During Tuesday night’s 101-44 thrashing of Vanderbilt in Coleman Coliseum, the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide witnessed a stellar performance from guard Nimari Burnett, who was the team’s second leading scorer with 16 points behind freshman phenom Brandon Miller.
Burnett’s exceptional game came in just his fourth game back from wrist surgery, which had held him out since Dec. 10. Prior to his injury, Burnett started in Alabama’s first nine games and was averaging nearly eight points and shooting 34 percent from three.
Since his return, Burnett had yet to score a point.
Of Burnett’s 16 points, 14 came in the first half — a half in which he didn’t miss a single shot. He was explosive from downtown, making all four of his first four attempts from beyond the arc, aiding in Alabama’s 19-make barrage from outside.
“I’m happy for Nimari,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “We felt like he’s coming back around. We’ve seen him shoot it like that in practice plenty, it was great to see him shoot it like that in a game.”
Burnett hadn’t broken double figures but one other time this season, but he felt like he was prepared coming into Tuesday’s game.
“It was really about going out and playing,” Burnett said. “I always make sure I have good preparation going into the games, going into practices, all of that. Just going out there, having fun, being aggressive and making a statement win.”
Scroll to Continue
For Burnett, it’s been a long road to get to where he is now. He was a consensus top-40 recruit and a McDonald’s All-American in the Class of 2020 and originally committed to Texas Tech before transferring to Alabama after his freshman year.
He missed all of last season after suffering a torn ACL and has now dealt with two injuries this season — wrist surgery and an injury that hindered his practice time leading into this season.
“It was big, I was really happy for him,” Oats said. “He’s a great kid. He’s been through a lot. […] He’s kept his head together, he’s had a great attitude through it all. We’ve been trying to gradually get him some more minutes. It was great to see him have a breakout game tonight.”
When it comes to scoring on Alabama’s team, the Crimson Tide is clearly led by Miller, scoring 19 points per game, and Mark Sears who adds around 14 per game. Outside of the two of them, there have been a plethora of other talent to contribute offensively such as Noah Clowney and Jahvon Quinerly, but with much less consistency.
Oats wants to see more players — Burnett and freshman Rylan Griffen specifically — consistently contribute to the scoring load.
“We’ve been looking for somebody else to kind of step up and make shots,” Oats said. “If we can get Rylan [Griffen] and Nimari [Burnett] making shots as well it opens everything up. You don’t have to just rely on Brandon [Miller] and Mark [Sears] to make shots on the perimeter.”
With Burnett’s emergence as a scoring threat as well as his already-renowned defensive prowess, he is sure to garner more minutes as Alabama continues its impressive run through the SEC in chase of a championship.
Burnett and the Crimson Tide will be back in action on Saturday, taking on SEC bottom-dweller LSU in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at 3 p.m. CT.