Collin Sexton surveys the competition, and he refuses to be outdone. He sees them, he knows who they are what they’ve accomplished, and he’s committed himself to achieving the same lofty goal. In his mind, he has no choice.
He’s going to finish college. Just ask his dad.
“My daughter has her degree, my older son has his and Collin doesn’t want to let them one-up him,” Darnell Sexton says with a laugh. It’s early May, and Darnell, father of a likely 2018 lottery pick, is talking proudly about his son’s focus on academics. Last fall, Collin posted a 4.0 GPA in his first semester at Alabama, and he was on pace to match it this spring. “He finished up his finals just the other day,” Darnell says. “He’s really determined to do what he needs to do.”
Given that he’ll likely be signing a seven- or eight-figure NBA contract in the coming weeks, it would be easy to forgive Collin Sexton—freshman or not—for succumbing to a serious case of senioritis. But if that competitiveness with his older sibling is enough motivation for him to complete his first full year of college—and promise his parents he’ll work toward completing his degree even as he preps for the draft—you can imagine how competitive he is on the court. There’s a reason they call him Young Bull.
A 6-3, 190-pound lead guard, Sexton has used his work ethic and fierce competitive drive to elevate from good-but-not-quite-elite high school prospect just two years ago to a first-round lock in the 2018 NBA Draft. He blew up in the summer of 2016, averaging 30-plus as a rising junior on the Nike EYBL circuit and suddenly drawing interest (and offers) from pretty much every top-tier program in the nation. The suburban Atlanta native surprised many by choosing Alabama, where former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson is in the process of establishing the Crimson Tide as more than just a distraction between football and spring football.
With Sexton running the show last season, he and the Tide were impossible to ignore. He averaged team highs of 19.2 points and 3.6 assists in leading Bama to a 20-win season and the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they fell to eventual champ Villanova. Given that debut season and the increasing love from NBA scouts, there was little doubt that Sexton’s next step would be the League.
“When you grow up playing, everybody wants to make it to the NBA, but during the season I was just focused on the now, trying not to get too far ahead of myself,” Sexton says. “I think that helped me, just allowed me to play my game. But once the season was over, I talked to my family and the coaching staff, and I decided the time was right.”
Decision made, he split his time since season’s end between Tuscaloosa and Atlanta, working to fine-tune his game, particularly his three-point shot—he hit 33.6 percent from beyond the arc last season. Given the room to improve there, and his relative lack of size, Sexton knows there are some who doubt his NBA potential. He says he’s less worried about adapting than maximizing what he already does well. “Honestly, I’m just going to go out there and play,” he says. “Why change what helped me get to this point?”
As his father acknowledges, Collin “has always played with a chip on his shoulder.” That’s reflected in the players he admires, guys like Russell Westbrook, Allen Iverson and even Kevin Garnett, not only for their games, but for their mentality. “Garnett, on the court, he didn’t have no friends,” Sexton says. “Every time I go out there, I feel like I have something to prove. But I feel like I’m not proving it to other people—I’m proving it to myself.”
Ryan Jones is a Contributing Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter at @thefarmerjones.