Six of Alabama’s past seven football seasons have stretched into the second week of January, making the task particularly difficult for any of its players wanting to also play basketball.
Doing so would require shaking off the physical rigors of a 15-game football season and then jumping into an SEC basketball schedule, without the benefits of much practice time or experience in non-conference games.
But five-star cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry and four-star cornerback Terrion Arnold both arrived at Alabama last year with aspirations to play both sports, something that was welcomed by Nick Saban and men’s basketball coach Nate Oats.
Oats said McKinstry would have a spot on the team and he practiced with the team upon his arrival on campus in early 2021. But after turning his attention back to football in the fall, McKinstry did not join the hoops team after football season this past winter .
Basketball does not appear to be in McKinstry’s future.
“When I first got here, I was thinking about playing basketball,” McKinstry explained Tuesday. “I actually did practice with the basketball team, but as of right now, I don’t think I’ll be playing basketball.”
Arnold also arrived on campus with hopes to play both basketball and football, but like McKinstry did not join the hoops team after his freshman football season ended.
The sophomore from Tallahassee, Florida is still leaving that door open, however.
“I just talked to Coach Oats the other day,” Arnold told The Players’ Lounge in June. “He was like, ‘So, I mean, we talked about you doing it last year, how is it?’ For real, I was like, ‘Coach, I had to find my groove, my way.’
“I’m gonna do it this year. I’m gonna play this year, for real, for real.”
Arnold, who said he has “always been a hooper” and did not focus on football until college, acknowledged pulling off playing both sports at this level will be difficult.
“You already know how Saban is — ‘We didn’t meet expectations last year. You got the be solely focused on this. You need to be laser-focused, solely locked in on this,’” Arnold explained. “But at the same time, Coach Oats — I mean, he’s a real, real chill dude. He’s like, ‘I know how it is with football. Just when you have free time, get over here so we can get you in the plays. Learn this, learn the system.’ I mean, we’ll go from there.
“I say I’m going to do it. People say, ‘He might do it, he might not do it.’ But the main thing is just — I know once I get out there and just get dressed out. Like, OK — let’s just say I get out there and I’m in warmup lines and find myself, and then I’m like ‘OK, OK, yeah, I can do it.’”
Alabama’s men’s basketball team played Monday in Barcelona and will wrap up its foreign tour with games Thursday and Friday in Paris. The program has not yet released its full non-conference schedule for the upcoming season.
Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.