Before getting into the incredible effort by Alabama's basketball team on Saturday, let me first tell you a little something about the young man nicknamed the "Young Bull."
Collin Sexton was an unknown high school player just a couple of years ago. Then over one summer, he went from an unranked kid to a five-star (top 10 in the country) prospect. By the time he played in our 2017 Ballislife All-American Game, he wasn't just arguably the best point guard in the nation, he was a viral sensation with his own brand. Unlike the Jelly Fam brand and movement, which is known for it's finesse and pretty layups, the Young Bull brand was based on toughness and a never-back-down attitude that was borderline psychotic and disrespectful.
There's two games that stick out the most to me from Sexton's high school career. The first happened at the City of Palms in 2016, when he dropped 33 on a Memphis East team coached by NBA legend Penny Hardaway and featuring Penny's son, Jayden Hardaway. Throughout the game, Sexton not only trash-talked Jayden but trash-talked his father, telling him his son was "trash." Video of the game went viral and it rubbed a lot of people -- especially life-long Gold members of the Penny & Lil Penny fanclub like myself -- the wrong way. Sexton later explained it was all just good pure basketball competition and he has nothing but respect for Penny and Jayden.
The other game happened a few months later, when Sexton made his return after missing a game with a concussion, came off the bench, knocked down a ridiculous game-tying three to force OT and finished with 43 points and the W for his Pebblebrook team.
By the time Sexton with his wild persona and equally wild hair showed up to Cali for our All-American game, I was converted to a member of the Young Bull fan club. I might even go as a far as saying I was a fanatic of the Alabama signee. He had me excited about Alabama basketball for the fist time since the early 90s, when Latrell Sprewell and Robert Horry were taking on Shaq and LSU.
He didn't disappoint at our game and practices either. He and future UCLA star Jaylen Hands went at it during a couple heated scrimmages. He treated the scrimmages and practices filled with little autograph and selfie-seeking kids like they were tryouts with NBA coaches in the stands.
So now we are caught up to Thanksgiving 2017 and almost to Saturday's incredible game. But first, I have to mention what he did earlier in the week against UT Arlington: Going against Erick Neal, Sexton scored a game-high 29 points, including the final five and then played some great defense on Neal in the final seconds to preserve the win and keep Alabama unbeaten. After the game, Sexton said: "Since I’m out there, I might as well do something while I’m out there. Every time I step on the court, I have to give my all.”
Giving his all is an understatement to what he did in his next game against Minnesota.
After the entire Alabama bench was ejected for a scuffle (the drama started after Minnesota's Nate Mason and Sexton started talking trash after Mason made Sexton fall), Dazon Ingram fouled out and John Petty injured his ankle, Sexton, Galin Smith and Riley Norris were forced to play the final 10 minutes and 41 seconds by themselves, three against five! As expected, Sexton accepted the challenge and put on a one-man show, scoring 31 of his new career-high 40 points in the second half and helping Alabama go on a 26-16 run and actually outscore Minnesota 30-22. Despite the incredible effort, Alabama ended up losing the game by five (89-84).
"Collin Sexton could be a single team just by himself," Said Pitino about Sexton after the game. "He's that good. Obviously, that's just absurd, the whole experience. ... We were playing really good until it got wacky."
Should I sign you up for the Young Bull fan club? Remember, Sexton was an unknown just a couple of years ago and now he's a NBA lottery pick prospect with NBA legends like Dwyane Wade tweeting about him: "Nothing but heart! I love the way he attack’s the game!
If you still aren't sold, I suggest you read his story in The Players' Tribune. Here's a few of my favorite quotes from his letter.
- You can’t follow me on social media. Don’t have it. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time. Likes won’t make you better at anything.
- I’m a big trash-talker — but usually it’s not to get in anybody’s head. In fact, a lot of the time it starts with me talking to myself out loud. If I’m not playing well, I’ll start with something like, “C’mon man, make the shot! This guy can’t guard you!” This will usually lead to players on the other team hearing me and jawing back and then it’s game on. But still, it’s never about them, it’s about me and how I’m helping my team. If I make a bad play, I’ll let myself know about it. And if I make a good play, yeah I’ll dap myself up.
- People define my story as “the kid who went from unranked to five stars” but I’ve always viewed myself as on a certain track to get to this point. Basically, I’m pleased with the results but I’m not surprised by them. Because they aren’t an accident. I didn’t average 30 in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League last year because I suddenly learned how to score. I played well because I go to the gym every night and I don’t leave until I’ve made 300 jump shots.