After Alabama just missed out on the NCAA tournament last season, the Crimson Tide hope five-star guard Collin Sexton can push them over the top and up the SEC standings.
It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen have come to possess a significant portion of the star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA draft, where the first upperclassman was not selected until Duke sophomore Luke Kennard with 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact in 2017–18 season, it’s important to get to know the new faces who may come to occupy the spotlight.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top 25 incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. We move to the No. 5 overall recruit, Alabama’s Collin Sexton.
What he means for Alabama’s recruiting class
The No. 2 guard prospect in the nation, a McDonald’s All-American and the MVP of last summer’s FIBA Americas U17 Championship, Sexton is the crown jewel of Avery Johnson’s second complete recruiting class at Alabama, and he’s set to team up with shooting guard John Petty (No. 9 at his position) to form an imposing freshman backcourt duo. The Crimson Tide had less pressing needs up front, but they added a pair of in-state forwards in 6’ 9”Alex Reese and 6’ 5” Herb Jones in addition to center Galin Smith.
How he fits
It will be hard to defend keeping Sexton off the floor if Avery Johnson wants to improve on Alabama’s SEC-worst scoring offense. Sexton’s athleticism in transition, slashing ability and overall swagger seem to leave him well-equipped to take on plenty of responsibility early, as the Tide’s deficiencies in those areas showed up against the most talented teams on the schedule last year. With third-year guard Dazon Ingram back to build off a strong finish last spring, Sexton won’t need to handle all the ball-distribution duties right away, freeing him up to focus on scoring.
Alabama came a few quality wins short of an NCAA tournament berth and watched SEC foe Vanderbilt squeak in with an identical record last year, so it’s fair to expect this much-hyped freshman class to provide that final nudge into the field of 68. The conference’s three Elite Eight teams all have newcomers of their own to assimilate, and with Braxton Key putting off the NBA draft and Ohio State transfer Daniel Giddens joining the lineup, Alabama should continue to pose problems inside for every conference opponent not named Kentucky. The Tide just need to find consistent outside scoring, whether from Sexton or elsewhere, to break into the league’s top four.