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Armed security escort Alabama's Brandon Miller into NCAA tournament

When Alabama star Brandon Miller arrived at Legacy Arena in Birmingham on the eve of his NCAA tournament debut, he was accompanied by an armed security guard wearing a Crimson Tide basketball polo shirt.

The security guard flanked Miller wherever he went, even standing alongside the podium while he spoke to reporters.

Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats explained the security guard’s presence was a byproduct of threats that Miller has received since news broke of his involvement in the Jan. 15 shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris. Miller allegedly transported the gun to the crime scene in the backseat of his car after Alabama basketball teammate Darius Miles texted Miller asking him to bring it.

“If you guys saw some of what I've seen sent his way, I think you would understand [the need for a security guard],” Oats told reporters in Birmingham. “And I don't want to get into all that. The entire situation, as you know, is just a heart-breaking situation on all accounts. But some of the messages from people that can sit behind fake email addresses … it's nothing that a college kid should have to go through.”

Miles has been indicted on capital murder charges, as has his friend Michael Davis, who has no affiliation with the Alabama basketball program. Investigators have said that the gun belonged to Miles but that Davis allegedly was the shooter.

The Tuscaloosa district attorney’s office so far has not charged Miller with a crime and police have apparently treated him as a cooperating witness. Miller’s attorney said last month that Miller “never touched the gun, was not involved in its exchange to Mr. Davis in any way and never knew that illegal activity involving the gun would occur.”

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Alabama’s decision not to suspend Miller or penalize him in any way has drawn intense scrutiny and a barrage of questions. Miller has started every game since the fatal shooting, playing through chants of “Lock him up!” on the road and politely declining to answer tough questions from reporters at postgame news conferences.

So far the scrutiny has appeared to galvanize Miller and his teammates rather than break them. Talent-laden Alabama tore through the SEC with only two losses and then backed that up last week by convincingly taking down three NCAA tournament-bound teams en route to the SEC tournament title.

Now comes the NCAA tournament, which will begin for the Tide on Thursday against 16th-seeded Texas A&M Corpus Christi. And for the time being, Miller will have a security guard at his side, something that Oats says is necessary under the circumstances.

“I put myself in his parent's shoes,” Oats said, “and our administration has seen the stuff that I've seen, and it's appropriate.”