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Return of Burnett a welcomed addition to Alabama basketball

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Alabama guard Nimari Burnett made an earlier-than-expected return for the Crimson Tide following a broken left wrist.

A set of X-rays and clearance from a surgeon and team staff led to a Thursday practice where coach Nate Oats said he looked “decent.” Friday’s practice and Saturday’s shootaround confirmed Burnett would play in his first game since Dec. 10.

He played just five minutes in No. 4 Alabama’s (17-2, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) 85-64 victory over Missouri on Saturday. He went 0-2 from the field, attempting a three-pointer while grabbing two rebounds.

“I didn’t anticipate him being great after being as out as long as he did but I wanted to get him some minutes,” Oats said. “We got him a little bit. He wasn’t supposed to be back for at least another week so to me any minutes we can get him right now, he’s going to play hard, he’s going to be great on defense. ... This was a decent game to get him going.”

Burnett started the Tide’s first nine games of the season, averaging 7.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He was shooting 35% from 3-point range before breaking his wrist in mid-December. The team provided a six-to-eight-week timeline. Burnett has struggled to stay on the court since transferring from Texas Tech, tearing his ACL before last season.

“I anticipate him getting back pretty quick,” Oats said postgame.”... He’s going to be another guy where Sears or Brandon are struggling, he can make open shots, kind of like Rylan (Griffen—three 3s) did for us tonight.”

In Burnett’s absence, freshman Jaden Bradley moved into the starting lineup. He averaged 8.7 points per game while shooting 43.4% from the field.

In the road SEC win on Saturday, the Tide’s guard depth was on display. Mark Sears shot poorly (four-for-12) but still tallied 17 points and eight rebounds. Jahvon Quinerly also sunk three 3s for 15 points, four rebounds three assists and a steal.

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