Mark Sears Q&A: Alabama star discusses his decision to wait on the NBA Draft and run it back with the Tide

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There are names that exist in a special type of lore in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, thanks to their achievements on college sports’ biggest stages and almost all of them are associated with Alabama football.

Mark Sears entered that sort of rarefied air this spring by leading the Crimson Tide men’s basketball team to its first Final Four thanks to seven 3-pointers in an Elite Eight triumph over Clemson. In a game that will go down in Alabama sports history, the Crimson Tide exploded for 54 points in the second half to take basketball supremacy in a rivalry often associated with football.

That was Sears coming up big in the biggest moment. Take it from the sweet-shooting lefty himself.

“I feel like earlier on in the first half I hit a lot of adversity, went 0 for 7, but that second half, I was really at my best for sure,” Sears told CBS Sports.

Sears could have parlayed some March magic into a jump to the NBA. Instead, he decided to return for his fifth season of college basketball — and third at Alabama — instantly vaulting the Crimson Tide into the preseason No. 1 conversation.

Sears talked with CBS Sports before the draft about his decision to return, his goals and much more.

(NOTE: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

CBS Sports: You played for almost an extra month and then you had a pretty quick turnaround [to prepare for pre-NBA Draft activities]. What have the last few months been like for you?

Mark Sears: “The last few months, I’ve been really training hard, getting prepared for the combine, and I got the combine, end up getting hurt on the max vertical jump drill, was kind of limited, wasn’t able to be myself during the game. I played, and I decided to come back and I’ve really just decided to work on my body and get in better shape, so it could help me be the best version of myself.”

CBS: When you talk about working on your body, what specifically are you doing?

MS: “Cutting out the junk food, like no cakes, no sugary stuff, just a lot of focus on lean meat. … That’s something I got some feedback on just, you know, just pass the eye test when you take your shirt off, and that’s something I’m gonna take to the next level.”

CBS: Did you get any time off to just relax?

MS: “The only time I got to chill was when I was in Miami after my three-a-day workouts. So, I’d probably get done, like, my day would be done like 3:30 p.m. in Miami, and from 3:30 to 8, I’d be able to explore Miami. … I worked out with Miami Hoop School. They’re a great organization. They work out with a lot of NBA pros and elite college players, and that was my first time going down there to work out with them … I’m looking forward to going back up there to train with them.”

CBS: What went into your decision to return? What were the big conversations you had?

MS: “I’d end up being in a two-way [contract]. That’s what a lot of teams were having me at is the two-way conversation and, two-way, it’s really not guaranteed. I felt like it was a smarter decision to come back, especially with today’s college basketball. It’s not the same as it was four years ago, especially with NIL. It really changed the game for college prospects. I felt like that was the best decision for me.”

CBS: When you told Coach Oats, what was his reaction?

MS: “He was pumped. He was fired up, and he was excited to get to work.”

CBS: You improved across the board last year, but there were kind of three big areas. One was spot-up shooting, one was in the pick and roll, and the third was in transition. What are the specifics of how you improved in those areas from year one to year two at Alabama?

MS: “Well the shooting, just knowing where the shots are going to come from and being in the program for a year and just being prepared and knowing what shots I’m gonna get throughout the offense.

“In the pick and roll, when people had transferred out of the program I was one of the point guards returning, and I had got a lot of reps that summer, and I really got really comfortable in the pick and roll, and I feel like they really translated to this season.

“In transition, we always like to do a transition, pull-up 3s and transition, catch-and shoot-3s. With how we play, we play very fast-paced and if that’s the open shot we have, we’re going to take it.

Sears specific possession breakdown

2022-23 per possession 2023-24 per possession

Spot-up shooting

1.02 (72nd percentile)

1.48 (100th percentile)

Pick-and-roll ball handling

0.77 (53rd percentile)

0.97 (86th percentile)


0.94 (35th percentile)

1.18 (71st percentile)

— Source:

CBS: When you were originally deciding where you wanted to transfer [from Ohio], what was Alabama’s pitch?

MS: “It’s the NBA-style offense, just the best place to have your chances to get to the NBA. I feel like when I was working out for NBA teams, the transformation was pretty easy because we’re doing basically the same drills we were doing in practice at Alabama. So that was very easy for the transition. I feel like another year in the program, it helps me become more NBA ready.”

CBS: When you look back at it, what do you think you’re most proud of this past season?

MS: “Growing vocally as a leader and when the game’s on the line, being that guy to try to make the difference in the game. Really later on in the season, I started to grow and grow more comfortable being in that role. I felt like in March Madness, people were able to see that.”

CBS: A lot of people think football when you talk about Alabama, but you have great home atmospheres and are coming off a historic run. What has it been like to see that transformation?

MS: “When I came in here [at first], it’s always been about football, football, football. And now, as soon as I announced that I’m coming back and I’m walking around campus, I have people stop me and be like, ‘I can’t wait for basketball season.’

“Alabama is really known for their football. And for us to finally get some recognition about the sport of basketball, you know, it feels pretty good.

CBS: You’ve now helped lift two programs to heights they don’t normally reach. What have you learned about yourself in the process?

MS: “I found out that I’m very determined and that I’m a winner. You know, everywhere I’ve been, I won at every level. So that’s really what I found out about myself.”

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