Bama Hoops Hype

OPINION: The Future of Avery Johnson’s Stars

Photo by Joe Habshey - Bama Hoops Hype

Collin Sexton has been nothing short of phenomenal to start his career under Avery Johnson, averaging 21.7 points and 3.7 assists per game as the first half of the season begins to come to a close.  Given all of the buzz surrounding his arrival and the national attention the freshman has been receiving – Some Mock Drafts have Sexton cracking the Top 5 –  it would be more surprising if Sexton DID return for a sophomore season.

However, despite Sexton’s dominance, Alabama is still far from a one-man team, and more Tide players are beginning to generate a bit of buzz, leaving question marks surrounding just how many gems Head Coach Avery Johnson will be able to retain for another season. Though John Petty did not receive quite the same national attention as Sexton upon his commitment, he has shown he is more than capable of competing at the highest of levels, already breaking school records in the first half of his freshman campaign.

Before the season started, I knew the Tide only had one year with Sexton, but I thought Petty might be a different story. All Sexton really had to do to ensure his spot in the draft is put together a halfway decent season while avoiding injury and his future was secure.  With Petty however, he seemed like the type of player who would have to prove himself, which I had no doubt in his ability to do so, but where I underestimated him was just how quickly he would be able to generate that spark.  Petty always seemed like the dark horse in this team for me, capable of quietly putting together 20 point outings on a regular basis, contributing on the defensive side of the floor that doesn’t always get the appreciation it deserves – all the while existing in the shadow of Sexton’s flashy and exciting brand of basketball. Realistically, I thought it would take him two to three years to truly carve his name out into the plans of NBA GMs across the league, but at times, Petty has more than proven he is ready to go now rather than later.

But Petty has taken far more than just a backseat role.  Together, Sexton and Petty have formed arguable the most dynamic and complete backcourt in not only the SEC, but in the entire Nation.  While Petty is able to lock down on defense, he has more than proven his ability to knock down the long ball, whether or not the defense is in his face.  Though at times he has been prone to turnovers and his shooting has its ups and downs, his length and gifted athletic ability should more than make up for what he currently lacks in his technical abilities.

While Petty is not currently cracking any of the draft boards I have seen, his future – at least for this year – will be determined by the Tide’s ability to perform in March. If Johnson can see this team through a solid run in the tournament, and Petty can put together quality performances on that big of a stage, he could find himself slingshotted into draft talks.  Conversations that would make returning for a sophomore season quite the tough decision for the Huntsville, Alabama native.

Petty is not the only question mark for the Tide next season.  Despite being injured for the first half of the season, former freshman standout Braxton Key is in a very similar situation to Petty.  Key delved into his options following last season, so if he is able to make the most of the rest of this campaign, I would be surprised if he did not once again see what kind of splash he could make in the draft.  But once again, Key’s future will also be tied to how big of a run Alabama can make in March.

Though Alabama appears built to win for years to come, the road to becoming a dominant player in college basketball seems full of “one-and-dones.” If Avery Johnson hopes to duplicate the success his team has already achieved, he must be looking to reload in his recruiting.


Johnathan Anderson covers Alabama Basketball for Bama Hoops Hype. You can follow him on Twitter for analysis throughout the season.

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