NEW YORK — Collin Sexton isn't asking for much.
All the point guard wants out of Thursday's NBA draft at Barclays Center is to be picked by a good team. Then, he wants a long and injury-free career. Playoff and championship runs would be an obvious — and desired — bonus.
"And to just be happy," Sexton said Wednesday. "Because that's the main thing. Be happy with what you're doing because now it's a job. It's something that's going to feed your family. You have to take it seriously."
This is a 19-year-old speaking.
Opting for the fast lane, Sexton declared for the draft after his freshman season at Alabama, a program that hasn't had a player drafted in the last decade. He's only the second Crimson Tide freshman to do so, the first since the one-and-done rule was installed in 2006.
That year was enough.
"It was amazing," Sexton said. "I learned a whole lot — good, bad, everything. I feel like just being there and being around the group of guys I was with, I connected pretty well and had a good season."
Sexton helped the Crimson Tide reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years. He then scored 25 points in a victory over Virginia Tech to send Alabama to the second round, a feat it had not accomplished in 12 years.
The Southeastern Conference named Sexton SEC Co-Freshman of the Year — with Kentucky's Kevin Knox, who is also in the draft — and The Associated Press awarded him Newcomer of the Year. Sexton finished second in the conference with 19.2 points per game, adding 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest. He had 29 double-digit scoring games — 16 were 20 or more points, three were 30-plus points.
"A guy who plays extremely hard, he's an overall great competitor," said Oklahoma's Trae Young, the draft's other top point guard prospect. "Whenever you're a competitor like me, you like playing against people like that."
The Young Bull — a nickname Sexton plans to keep in the NBA — grew up fast.
"Well, you have to," he said. "Because you have to leave."
But he hasn't had to say goodbye. Not yet.
Alabama coach Avery Johnson has been keeping up with Sexton and will be at draft. Johnson, a former NBA champion and coach, taught Sexton everything he could as a player and as an adult. He keeps reminding the young star to embrace this opportunity, soak it all in because it only happens once.
"Also, off the court, he just told me to always respect people," Sexton said. "You never know what they can do for you, and you never know who's watching."
Good advice, considering all the eyes on him this week.
Sexton's eyes are wide, too. The excitement he feels is obvious. A smile sneaks on his face every time he talks about Thursday's festivities. It's a relief knowing all his hard work has paid off, and there's an eagerness to get back out there.
Since Alabama's season ended, Sexton has been working on his individual game. He's already fast but thinks he can be faster. He went back and watched film to figure out where he can improve — and has done so.
Next time he's on the court?
"It'll be a big surprise," Sexton said.
There's that excitement.
A year ago, Sexton was fresh out of high school — his days at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, Georgia, he said 'feel like forever ago' — and had just moved into his dorm at Alabama, where he watched the 2017 draft. Pick after pick, he enjoyed players' reactions. They were so genuine; that has always been his favourite part.
"I just envisioned myself doing it one day," Sexton said.
That day is here. It's his turn to experience that life-changing moment and, as he said, just be happy.
It'll be both a dream come true and a job for the future.
"You grow up wanting to do this," Sexton said. "Everybody knows what's going to come with it."
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