The plan, for Nolan Bertain, had always been to play two years at Casper College.
That is, until three weeks ago when NCAA Division I interest started pouring in. So Bertain went on some college visits. Then came the one he couldn’t say no to.
The University of Alabama-Birmingham offered a scholarship to the 6-foot-4 freshman guard from Portland, Oregon, back on April 13. Bertain held off on making a decision until finishing his visit to Birmingham over the weekend.
On Sunday he made his decision known. And on Tuesday he signed his letter of intent, at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym. to transfer from Casper College and play at UAB. He will be eligible to play three years for the Blazers.
“The basketball coaches they have there made me feel very comfortable,” Bertain said of his decision. “The coaching staff there and the way they recruited me stood out from the other schools.”
One of those other schools that stood out, Western Kentucky University, remained a viable option until Bertain realized UAB was the proper fit for him, days before signing his letter of intent.
It wasn’t until the weeks leading up to that moment that Bertain believed he would stay for his two years. One of the reasons those plans may have changed is what made him stand out among his junior college peers: distance shooting.
“Nolan had a phenomenal year with only competing in 22 games and making 81 3-pointers for us this season,” T-Birds head coach Dan Russell said in a statement. “His ability to shoot the ball and stretch the defense was something that was very instrumental to our team success.”
The T-Birds went 22-10 before falling in the NJCAA Region IX Tournament. Bertain averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while playing in 22 of 32 games. He also finished shooting 47.8 percent from the field, including 45.3 from behind the arc.
“The experience here was great. Best year I’ve had was playing with these guys,” Bertain said while gesturing to his teammates. “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for these guys.”
Alabama-Birmingham went 20-13 last season in head coach Robert Ehsan’s third year. The Blazers’ season ended with a loss to Western Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament.