Is Alabama Really Going to Allow Brandon Miller to Keep Playing Ball?

The basketball star brought a teammate the gun that was used in a fatal January shooting near campus

Brandon Miller of Alabama after defeating Auburn in February.
Brandon Miller is actually supposed to take the floor tonight.
Michael Chang/Getty

In a story that may have a different ending by the time everything is said and done, the University of Alabama is going to continue to allow basketball star Brandon Miller to keep playing for the Crimson Tide despite his clear connection to a fatal January shooting near campus.

According to testimony given by law enforcement in a Tuscaloosa courtroom Tuesday, Miller brought his then-teammate Darius Miles his gun after Miles texted him and asked him to do so. That gun was then allegedly given by Miles to 20-year-old Michael “Buzz” Davis, who allegedly eventually used it to fatally shoot 23-year-old Jamea Harris. Miles and Davis are both facing capital murder charges for the death of Harris. During Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors also indicated starting freshman Jaden Bradley was present the night of the killing.

Despite his apparent involvement in the fatal crime, Miller has not been charged by authorities, disciplined by the University of Alabama or removed from the Crimson Tide basketball team. The same goes for Bradley and both players are expected to suit up when Alabama (23-4) takes on South Carolina (10-17) tonight in Columbia’s Colonial Life Arena.

Asked by why Miller hadn’t been charged with a crime, Tuscaloosa chief deputy district attorney Paula Whitley said: “That’s not a question I can answer. There’s nothing we could charge him with [according to the law].”

Since the police didn’t feel they could charge Miller, Alabama is also apparently fine with proceeding as if Miller didn’t, allegedly, have a hand in a young woman’s death approximately a month ago. Speaking Tuesday, Alabama coach Nate Oats said he had known about Miller’s alleged involvement since the incident came to light and that his young star is “not in any trouble.”

“We knew about that. Can’t control everything anybody does outside of practice. Nobody knew that was going to happen,” Oats said to reporters. “College kids are out, Brandon hasn’t been in any type of trouble nor is he in any type of trouble in this case. Wrong spot at the wrong time.”

Later, after realizing it was really Harris who landed in a much worse spot at a far worse time than his star basketball player, Oats clarified what he termed his “unfortunate remarks” with a prepared statement.

“We were informed by law enforcement of other student-athletes being in the vicinity, and law enforcement has repeatedly told us that no other student-athletes were suspects,” Oats said, according to ESPN. “They were witnesses only. Our understanding is that they have all been fully truthful and cooperative. In no way did I intend to downplay the seriousness of this situation or the tragedy of that night. My prayers continue to go out to Jamea Harris’s family.”

Leaving aside whether Miller broke the law, and prosecutors certainly could be correct that he technically did nothing illegal, the optics of continuing to have him on the basketball court representing the Crimson Tide are not great for the University of Alabama and Oats’s comments did nothing to help paint the school in a better light. Talking about Miller, who is projected to be a top pick in the NBA draft, and his status with the team seems gross considering that Harris is dead and he was involved. Unsettling as it is, that’s a conversation that will continue as long as he continues to take the floor for the Crimson Tide.

“UA Athletics continues to cooperate fully with law enforcement in the on-going investigation of this tragic situation,” Alabama said in a statement before Wednesday’s game. “Based on all the information we have received, Brandon Miller is not considered a suspect in this case, only a cooperative witness. Today’s statement from Brandon’s lawyer adds additional context that the University has considered as part of its review of the facts. Based on all of the facts we have gathered, Brandon remains an active member of our team.”

Miller may not have done anything illegal, but continuing to have him play basketball for the Tide is a miscarriage of justice that Alabama appears willing to ignore, if not endorse, in pursuit of a national championship.

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