Effort Is Everything For USA Gold Medalist, Nike Hoop Summit Athlete Collin Sexton
About five hours before Georgia’s marquee prep hoops matchup on Jan. 27, Pebblebrook High School versus Joseph Wheeler High School, Pebblebrook senior guard Collin Sexton was doing anything but relaxing.
“I just finished about an hour-and-a-half workout. I was in there getting up a lot of shots, doing what I need to do,” Sexton said, in the car as his father drove him from the gym in Mableton, Georgia. “Now, I’m just going to go eat and rest a bit before I go back to school to have a little walk through.”
A rigorous workout hours ahead of one of your biggest games of the season seems to stray from conventional wisdom. It is not that way for Sexton. He is not your conventional 18-year-old.
At this point, do not bother looking Collin up on social media – he does not have any. There is not time for Instagram or Twitter. His normal day begins earlier than most high schoolers, at 6 a.m. He does do normal things, such as having breakfast, before heading to the gym.
“When you’re in the gym, you can work out alone. Nobody else needs to be in there to do what you’re supposed to do,” he said. “I push myself to the max, because that’s where I want to be. I want to be the best person I can be as a player and as a person.”
Sexton then goes to school, “from 8:20 to 11:36,” he said, specifically. He has this daily routine down to a T, and not branching off course has contributed to his exponential growth.
2016 was a year of just that for Sexton – growth, as he shot up the class of 2017 player rankings. ESPN currently lists Sexton as the 10th best prospect from the class and the No. 2 ranked shooting guard. None of that really matters to him, though.
“When I was working to get to where I wanted to get to, I didn’t really compare myself to the rankings. I knew what I could do.”
“And, I wanted to be up there on the rankings, but I was never just like, ‘Rankings, rankings, rankings.’ I always told myself to work hard and do what I have to do to show people that I am one of the top players in the country.”
He did just that, all offseason.
Sexton averaged 28.3 points, 7.4 rebounds. and 2.9 assists per game for Pebblebrook his junior season, but a special fire was lit under him in the aftermath, stemming from the Falcons’ loss in overtime of Georgia’s Class 6A state title game.
The work ethic his coaches and peers rave about was in full effect heading into his summer season with Southern Stampede on the Nike EYBL circuit.
“EYBL came and my teammates were giving me the ball, because they knew what I could do and they knew if I scored the ball, we could win, for sure. I felt like it was my teammates and my coaches, because they put me in the right position, as well as me going out there and doing it.”
He averaged 30.6 ppg. after three games on the opening weekend of EYBL play, but admits he felt people were still skeptical of his abilities until the third or fourth weekend. In that time, Sexton rattled off eight consecutive games of 30-or-more points, finishing it off with a 44-point outing against Georgia Stars. His 31.0 ppg. average set an EYBL circuit record.
Then he shifted focus toward another goal – making the 2016 USA Basketball U17 World Championship Team. Sexton joined 37 other hopefuls in Colorado Springs for training camp the first week of June.
“I just wanted to get myself to the door of USA Basketball. If I could get to the tryouts, then I felt like I could do my best and make the team, and that’s what I did,” said Sexton. “I worked very hard just to make the team, and then when I made it, I made sure I continued to work hard.”
That showed during the competition – Sexton’s first internationally – as the U17s captured the gold medal with a 7-0 record. Coming off the bench in all six of his games, Sexton led the USA in scoring at 17.0 ppg. and added 4.2 apg. and 4.0 rpg. He was 8-of-9 from the floor, scoring 16 points and dishing out eight assists in the gold medal game versus Turkey before being named MVP of the U17 World Championship and as an all-tournament team selection.
“The interesting thing about Collin is the fact that he never depended on his athletic ability as much as he depended on his hustle on the court,” said USA Basketball’s U17 Men’s head coach Don Showalter. “Some kids will depend so much on their athletic ability that at times they don’t play very hard. Collin is the reverse. That’s a little unusual for somebody that age, maybe, to understand that it’s as important, or more important, than what I bring to the table athletic-wise.
“Collin added that extra dimension coming off the bench of really being aggressive and a hard-nosed defender. He would set the tone coming off the bench in a situation where the other team was maybe wearing down, and it just made him that much better. And, he could score in so many different ways. That sets him apart from other players,” Showalter added, speaking highly of the 18-year-old’s craftiness around the basket.
Sexton has held onto his promise of working hard since his experience with USA Basketball and has added to his scoring arsenal. He has guided Pebblebrook to a 16-5 record in his senior campaign, with all five losses coming out of state. He limped off the court in the waning seconds of Pebblebrook’s game against Wheeler, only to return moments later to be fouled. On one foot, he knocked down two free throws for points 34 and 35 to ice a win over their rival; just another chapter in Sexton’s story of undoubted competitive toughness.
And, it is an edge that will be headed to University of Alabama in the fall, after he signed on Nov. 10. Thus far, Sexton is the highest rated recruit headed to the Southeastern Conference.
“I felt like it was a family environment and coach Avery [Johnson] played, as well as coached at the next level that I’m trying to get to,” he said, also noting his pleasure with his family being within proximity to Tuscaloosa.
“I just want to be the best player that I can be. I’m going to continue to work hard to do that. I want Alabama to be number one in the SEC, to go shock Kentucky and the rest of the conference.”
Sexton’s senior season at Pebblebrook came to a close on March 1, as the Falcons failed to reach the state semifinals for the first time in his illustrious high school career. He scored 40 points in Pebblebrook’s second round playoff matchup and finished with 29 points in the quarterfinal loss.
Without looking too far ahead, Sexton has plenty of basketball to keep him busy. He completed the trifecta of being named a McDonald’s All-American, a Jordan Brand Classic selection and to the USA Junior National Select Team roster for the Nike Hoop Summit, the latter of which poses a different challenge for the athletes.
“Not many people get this opportunity. It’s just great to get to play in the game, especially in Portland. And you get to play against the World Team. I remember watching this last year and wanting to be a part of it,” he said.
Now, he is very much a part of it, and is entering with a reputation that is unparalleled by his peers.
“You may compare yourself and say, ‘Oh, I want to be like him or I want to do that.’ Just be the person you want to be. That’s what makes me unique because I don’t want to be like the rest. I’m working my hardest to be the best.”