INDIANAPOLIS — When Alabama basketball needed him most, John Petty Jr. answered the call.
In March of 2019, the Crimson Tide was at its lowest point in recent memory. The team has just finished the season with an 18-16 overall record and concluded with a wimper — an 80-79 overtime loss in the first round of the NIT to Norfolk State.
The loss resulted in the firing of head coach Avery Johnson, but the announcement of new coach Nate Oats less than a week later caused quite a stir in Tuscaloosa. To Petty, who hails from Huntsville, Ala., a decision was to be pondered.
Should he leave Alabama or stick it out with a program that had seen nothing but disappointment over the last decade?
Petty had compiled an impressive resume over his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide. He finished the season third on the team in points with 348 and was first on the team in threes with 59.
Petty could have transferred to a number of schools because of his offensive talent and his tenacity on defense. Instead, though, he chose to answer the call of his school in his home state when it needed him most.
While his first two season under Johnson didn't come without its troubles, Petty noted on Sunday that his decision to remain in-state at Alabama means a lot.
"It means a lot, just especially all the struggles that I went through my first two years and just the adversity that I had my first two years, just to see it all turn around and unfold like it did, it means a lot," Petty said. "Like, we had a remarkable season. We made history, and we did great things for this school. It feels great, just along with me and a couple more of the Alabama guys being able to come into this school in our state and change it around like we did. So I feel great about that."
On Sunday, Petty and his Crimson Tide closed out the season with another overtime loss, but this time in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament to UCLA. Alabama accomplished quite a lot in the 2020-2021 season, including winning both the SEC regular-season and tournament titles.
For Petty personally, he leaves Tuscaloosa as Alabama's all-time three-point leader with 311 career baskets from beyond the arc.
While Petty experienced a lot of criticism in his early seasons, with many saying he was underperforming his projected potential with the team, he stuck with it and now leaves Alabama as one of its favorite athletes.
To Petty, he just wants to be remembered as a winner.
"I just want to be remembered as a winner," Petty said. "That's all I wanted to do when I got here. No matter what it took, what I had to do, I just wanted to win. I wanted to make this school, make this season special. That's exactly why I came back, and that's exactly what we did."
Along with Petty, seniors Herb Jones and Alex Reese — also originating from the state of Alabama — stuck with the team and fought to the end to bring Alabama basketball to national prominence. With their departure, gone are the days of mediocrity in Tuscaloosa.
Rest assured, the SEC and the country will be ready for the team next season, albeit without its trio of home state heroes.
Petty and his senior brothers will be remembered for decades to come as the players that changed the culture at Crimson Tide hoops under Oats. For fans, Petty's wish will be realized: he will always be remembered as a winner.
"Hat's off to my brothers because, without them, this season wouldn't have been as special as it was," Petty said. "I just want to be remembered as a winner. No matter how many awards we got, how many accolades we received, it really doesn't matter to me. I just always wanted to be known as a winner."