Alabama Brings Armed Security To NCAA Tournament To Keep Brandon Miller Safe, Coach Nate Oats Says

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Alabama star freshman guard Brandon Miller had quite a screen setter at the NCAA Tournament practice and press conference Wednesday at Legacy Arena.

And it was not for open looks at the basket.

Alabama beefed up its security - literally - with an armed and badged officer who looked like he could play linebacker for Alabama football coach Nick Saban. The officer wore a crimson golf shirt with "Alabama Basketball" on his chest.

And he was guarding Miller, according to Alabama coach Nate Oats. The security was not provided by the NCAA or the Southeastern Conference. It was by Alabama.

Miller was on the scene at the Alabama Strip near campus at approximately 1:45 a.m. on Jan. 15 when Birmingham native Jamea Jonae Harris was shot and killed.


According to Tuscaloosa Police, Miller drove the murder weapon to Alabama teammate Darius Miles, who had left his gun in Miller's car. Miles took the gun from Miller's car and gave it to childhood friend Michael Lynn Davis. Police say Davis then shot and killed Harris, a 23-year-old mother of a 5-year old. Miles and Davis remain in a Tuscaloosa jail awaiting trial on capital murder charges.

Alabama immediately removed Miles, a junior from Washington D.C., off the team on Jan. 15.

Tuscaloosa Police detective Branden Culpepper testified in a preliminary hearing on Feb. 21 that Miller brought the gun to Miles after Miles texted Miller to bring it. Miller has never been charged by authorities or suspended by Oats. And the first team All-American and SEC player of the year has continued to lead Alabama to one of its best seasons ever so far with 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. The Tide is the overall No. 1 seed for the first time in history and is in search of its first Final Four.

Alabama Opens NCAA Tournament Play On Thursday

The No. 1 seeded Tide (29-5) plays 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (24-10) at 2:45 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on CBS.

Miller avoided arrest on accomplice or accessory charges and suspension, but people on social media and emailers have harshly criticized him and Alabama. Rival fans at games have also been all over him. Enough for the security, Oats said. There was no such security last week at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

"If you guys saw some of what I've seen sent his way, I think you would understand why that's the case," Oats said at a press conference at Legacy Arena on Wednesday. "The entire situation, as you know, is just a heart-breaking situation on all accounts. But some of the messages from people that can sit behind fake email addresses are something that nobody would ever want their son to see."

Oats said he put himself in Miller's parents' shoes.

"And our administration has seen the stuff that I've seen, and it (the security) is appropriate," Oats said. "It's nothing that a college kid should have to go through."

A reporter asked Miller about his security during the players' part of the press conference.

"Um, I feel like we always travel with security," he said. "That's all I'm going to say about that."

Bama Athletic Department Blocked Officer Communication

Alabama does have security routinely at home and away basketball games, but not for an individual player. And not like this.

"If you were able to see what I've seen, then you'd understand why that's going on right now," Oats said.

OutKick approached the officer in the Alabama locker room during a players' open period with reporters, and asked if he was with Tuscaloosa Police or hired by the University of Alabama. But right before he answered, a member of the Alabama athletic department interrupted and said he was not to be interviewed.

Reporters asked Miller only two questions related to the murder, and neither were specific. Both were about handling off-court distractions:

QUESTION: "With all the success you have had, how do you block out the outside noise and focus on the goal ahead?

MILLER: "Well, us having the bond that we have, I feel like we all just lean on each other. We know our struggles on and off the court. We know our strengths on and off the court. Just knowing that plays a big part in our success on the court."

QUESTION: "Brandon, I think I know the answer to this, but I feel like it has to be asked again. With all that's happened with you off the court, is there any pressure or any burden coming into this? How do you block that out and focus on the NCAA Tournament with all the other stuff swirling around?"

MILLER: "Like I said before, I just lean on my teammates, really. They are here for me like a family away from home."

Written by
Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests. A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention. Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.