Family members of Jamea Harris are upset Alabama star Brandon Miller played Wednesday and are irate with Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats’ handling of the controversial situation.
Harris, 23, was shot to death on Jan. 15 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., with the gun that police say that Miller transported to the scene. Capital murder charges have been filed against former Alabama player Darius Miles and Michael Davis.
Miller has not been charged with a crime but nationwide outrage erupted Tuesday when police testimony revealed he brought the gun to the scene after being requested to do so by Miles.
DeCarla Cotton, mother of Harris, was stunned that Miller was allowed to play in Wednesday’s game at South Carolina.
“It’s just unimaginable, and it’s like his life is just going on,” Cotton told USA Today Sports on Thursday. “He took a brief pause and it didn’t stop. It’s ‘OK, slap on the wrist and go play ball.’
“They’re worried about his career, but what about this 5-year-old boy?” she said of Harris’ son, Kaine. “He’s the true victim in all this. He won’t have a mother anymore to influence his growing up and who he’s going to be.”
Miller scored 41 points in the 78-76 overtime victory as second-ranked Alabama avoided an upset loss. He scored the winning basket with 0.9 seconds left.
On Tuesday, Oats held a press conference after practice in which he was asked about Miller’s status. Part of Oats’ comments included that Miller was “at the wrong spot at the wrong time.”
Oats has attempted to clarify the comment twice — later Tuesday via statement and after Wednesday’s victory.
Considering there was a fatal shooting, Harris’ stepfather, Kelvin Heard, told AL.com that Oats “crossed the line” with his comments.
“There was only one person in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was Jamea,” Heard said. “When I heard him say that, my heart hit the floor. His words cut so deep. It’s just downright disrespectful.”
Heard wasn’t impressed with either of Oats’ attempts to apologize, saying his handling of the situation has been “God awful.”
“The retraction meant nothing to us because over this five-week period, he has made a habit of making reckless statements,” Heard said of Oats. “When I say reckless, I mean statements not considering the victim in this whole thing, which is Jamea Harris.”
Miller is in the midst of a stellar season. He leads the SEC with a 19.5 scoring average and became just the third freshman in school history to score at least 500 points in a season. He also is averaging 8.0 rebounds per game and has made a team-high 88 3-pointers, which is also best in the SEC.
Miller is expected to declare for the NBA draft following the season. He is projected as a probable top five overall pick.
At the moment, his reputation is taking a big hit due to the testimony from Tuscaloosa police.
Miller’s attorney, Jim Standridge, said his client didn’t see the weapon.
“Brandon never saw the handgun nor handled it,” Standridge said in a statement. “Further, it is our understanding that the weapon was concealed under some clothing in the back seat of his car.”
Said Heard: “Brandon Miller is knee deep in this situation no matter how they want to spin this. We trust the D.A. and the work that they’re doing.”
Miller wasn’t made available to the media after his standout on-court performance on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media