Jahvon Quinerly is still Alabama basketball's Mr. March as Tide marches to Sweet 16

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BIRMINGHAM ― Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats and point guard Jahvon Quinerly wrapped up their interviews with CBS at center court, then they began their exit together.

Oats pointed at the crowd and pumped his fist. Quinerly tapped his heart, then blew a kiss to the fans.

Oats led the way and Quinerly stayed within a step of him, clapping, as the remaining fans from the home-like crowd at Legacy Arena sent them off to Louisville.

“It was a really good feeling,” Quinerly said.

It’s fitting Oats and Quinerly exited together. They were both on the court two seasons ago when Alabama also beat Maryland to advance to the Sweet 16. Then they did the same on Saturday, beating Maryland 73-51.

Quinerly is the only remaining player from that team. The roster has undergone significant change since then. But even as new stars emerge and players come and go, it’s still Quinerly and Oats getting the job done together.

When Quinerly checked out of the game late, Oats made sure to tell him something.

The message?

“He just said, ‘You show up in March,’” Quinerly said.

At this point, call him Mr. March. The latest edition was Quinerly scoring a game-high 22 points to lead Alabama (31-5) to the win.

Two seasons ago, he won the SEC Tournament MVP in March. Then this season, Quinerly scored 22 in the conference title game to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. He also scored 24 in the overtime win against Auburn that won the Crimson Tide the SEC regular-season championship at the beginning of this month.

“He finds a way to come out and play really well at the end of the year every year,” Oats said.

That was the case last season, Oats added. But then Quinerly tore his ACL in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and Alabama had a quick exit with the loss to Notre Dame.

Quinerly had originally planned to go pro after that season. He had just wrapped up his second season playing for Alabama, and fourth year of being part of college basketball. Then Quinerly decided to come back.

That gave Oats a veteran point guard to pair with a young team. Alabama added an elite freshman class, but it was still a bunch of freshmen. A veteran leader was needed.

Quinerly was more than equipped to fill that role.

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Forward Noah Gurley said he saw Quinerly offering to help the young players learn the offense as early as the summer.

In Quinerly, Oats has had an asset who’s not far off from an assistant coach on the floor. Quinerly wouldn’t go as far as to say he deserves that title, but he knows Oats trusts him.

“I definitely have an influence on some of the plays that we run and what I see out there,” Quinerly said.

It’s taken time for it to reach that point, but Oats and Quinerly have had that time. Quinerly said toward the end of the 2021-22 season, he felt like he could speak up more often and voice his opinion.

Quinerly said he and Oats talk much more often. One example: Quinerly has gone to Oats' hotel room, and they sit and just talk for 20 minutes.

“That’s something that we didn’t really used to do two years ago,” Quinerly said. “I just feel like our relationship has grown and we’re able to be very transparent with each other.”

That has only helped Alabama, and it’s showing now for the tournament's No. 1 overall seed.

Quinerly wasn’t in the starting lineup for much of the season, and he had his ups and downs as he got healthy from the knee injury. He’s remained a leader through it all, though.

That helped Alabama win the SEC and the league tournament, and it has Alabama headed to the Sweet 16.

And now, Mr. March is once again in a feature role for this team. And once again, he and Oats are advancing together in the NCAA Tournament.

“He’s playing his best basketball by far right now,” Oats said. “I think he doesn’t want to let his teammates down. He wants to take this team as far as they can go.”

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Jahvon Quinerly is Alabama basketball's Mr. March, has Tide in Sweet 16