Nate Oats has a long-term contract and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances on his resume at the University at Buffalo.
The UB men’s basketball coach said he sees the Bulls’ recruiting efforts making a big step forward as a result of the program’s two straight Mid-American Conference Championships.
“It’s nice to have a five-year deal for recruiting,” Oats said, a day after signing a contract that runs through 2020.
“I’ve been back multiple times to Detroit, but it’s not just Detroit,” Oats said. “Blake Hamilton came from L.A. We’ve brought kids in from Chicago, Dallas, and we’re kind of getting more of a national name for recruiting, which is big. We’ve been able to capitalize on it. With our recruiting class coming in, we’ve got North Carolina, Chicago, Minneapolis and the kid from Rochester, who’s really good. I do think the program’s going in the right direction.”
UB’s recruiting class is the highest-rated in school history, for whatever that’s worth. (Past UB MAC players of the year Javon McCrea and Justin Moss were not three-star recruits.) UB signed 6-foot-8 Quate McKinzie, rated by ESPN as the No. 40 power forward in the nation and the No. 11 recruit in North Carolina. UB added a 6-4 athletic guard, James Jones, rated No. 11 in Illinois by a prep magazine in that state. UB got a 7-foot center, Brock Bertram, who is rated the No. 4 prospect in Minnesota. Earlier this month, UB added a junior college point guard, Dontay Carruthers, from Rochester.
“Obviously making the NCAA Tournament is big,” Oats said. “When we recruit guys they remember you. You played Miami. You played them tough. You had a lead most of the first half. They saw us have a lead at half against Kentucky and Wisconsin two years ago. Playing at Duke. It was a one-point game at Iowa State in the second half. I think those games and how we’ve played some of those teams on the road have helped get this program up to where it’s got a lot more of a national name than maybe it did three years ago.”
Oats said upon signing the new contract he bought a boat.
“I bought a boat. It’s a pontoon. My wife grew up boating. Danny White had a boat. Donyell Marshall bought a boat when he got here. I didn’t have Donyell’s kind of money. So now I’ve got a little bit of a raise. My wife grew up boating and she wanted it for the kids.”
Oats’ wife, Crystal, has battled lymphoma since just before the start of the basketball season. She was determined to be clear of cancer even before her full course of chemotherapy treatments had completed. She recently underwent a bone-marrow transplant as part of her recovery.
“I actually signed the week before Mother’s Day, so I told her it was her Mother’s Day gift,” Oats said. “She got out of the hospital last Wednesday and we went on it Thursday. No new car though, and we’re staying in the same house.”
Oats still has to hire an assistant coach to replace Marshall, the former NBA star who left UB in April to become head coach at Central Connecticut State. Oats said he expects to announce the hiring in June.