Oats, ‘Bama add AAC Co-Player of the Year

Oats, ‘Bama add AAC Co-Player of the Year

The rich got richer on Saturday when Alabama secured a commitment from South Florida’s Chris Youngblood, who garnered AAC Co-Player of the Year honors in 2023-24. Youngblood, a Tuscaloosa native, returns home after serving as the catalyst in a breakout campaign for the Bulls.

USF won the AAC regular-season title, advanced to the second round of the NIT and finished the year with a 25-8 straight-up record and a 21-9-3 against-the-spread mark. The Bulls won 83-77 at UCF as five-point road underdogs in the opening round of the NIT, but they lost a 70-65 decision to VCU as three-point home favorites in the second round.

After starting the season with a 2-4 record, USF won 21 of its next 22 games, including a 15-game winning streak that wasn’t snapped until a loss at Tulsa in the regular-season finale. Youngblood started 32 of 33 games, averaging 15.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

He made 45.8 percent of his field-goal attempts, 41.6 percent of his 3-pointers and 82.9 percent of his free throws. Youngblood has shot 40.5 percent. 41.5 percent and 41.6 percent from 3-point range in the last three seasons, so he’ll be a perfect fit in Nate Oats’s offense that puts an emphasis on shooting from beyond the arc.

Youngblood played for three years at Kennesaw St. before following his head coach, Amir Abdur-Rahim, when he left Kennesaw St. for USF. He started all 35 games for the Owls in 2022-23, leading them to the NCAA Tournament.

In a first-round showdown in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, Kennesaw St. had a 13-point lead on Xavier with 9:10 remaining. However, the Musketeers rallied and ended up winning a 72-67 decision.

Youngblood played 33 minutes before fouling out, contributing 14 points, one rebound, one assist, one blocked shot and one steal. He buried 5-of-10 FGAs, 2-of-3 from 3-point territory and 2-of-3 at the free-throw line.

In four seasons, Youngblood has started 118 of 122 career games, averaging 14.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 APG. He’s drained 584-of-1,293 FGAs (45.2%), 270-of-685 launches from downtown (39.4%) and 294-of-358 free throws (82.1%).

FanDuel has Alabama with 16/1 odds to win the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Those are tied for the fourth-shortest odds on the board along with North Carolina and Houston.

Duke is currently the 11/1 ‘chalk,’ while Kansas and UConn have 12/1 and 13/1 odds, respectively.

Oats is awaiting word on the status of star point guard Mark Sears, who seems likely to return to school since most mock drafts have him projected to go undrafted. Sears could test the NBA waters while maintaining his eligibility, though.

Rylan Griffen, a 6-foot-6 guard who started 33 of 36 games for the Crimson Tide, announced that he’s entering the transfer portal on Friday. Griffen averaged 11.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 APG as a true sophomore on the Tide’s Final Four team. He made 39.2 percent of his 3-pointers.