At the start of his junior season, Pebblebrook basketball point guard Collin Sexton was a three-star recruit with about eight scholarship offers, none from top-25 programs.
Within months, he was the most valuable player of the FIBA U17 World Championships in Zaragoza, Spain, and the fastest-rising prospect in the country. Sexton chose Alabama in November after months of unexpected courtship from Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas and others.
"I felt like I always could play with the best of the best,’’ said Sexton, now the consensus No. 7 prospect in the country. “I just had to show my talents at the right time.’’
The first right time took place Dec. 30, 2015. Pebblebrook was playing a nationally prominent California program called Bishop O’Dowd in San Diego. Sexton scored 37 points in the 74-48 victory.
"Collin Sexton is just destroying Bishop O'Dowd right now,’’ tweeted Eric Bossi, a national analyst for Rivals.com. “Raining jumpers, dropping dimes, locking up & talking high level trash.’’
"We knew all the writers were going to be there,’’ Pebblebrook coach George Washington said. "I told him ‘you have to show them who Collin Sexton is.’ He said ‘show me the door, and I’ll knock it down.’ After that, people started following him.’’
It was one fast break after another from there. Sexton went on to average 29 points for Pebblebrook, which made the Class AAAAAA finals.
Sexton then played for the Southern Stampede in the prestigious Nike EYBL summer league and averaged a circuit-best 31.0 points. That helped get him a last-minute invitation from USA Basketball for the U17 World Team tryouts in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Slotted as the sixth man, Sexton led the team in scoring (17.0 per game) and assists (4.2) as the U.S. went 7-0. One teammate was Pace Academy forward Wendell Carter, who has committed to Duke.
Later in July, Sexton was invited to Chris Paul’s The 8 invitational in Las Vegas. Each of the eight teams is drafted and coached by NBA player. Paul’s team, with Sexton at the point, won it.
Preceding this, Sexton had taken his fitness and training to another level. He began working out three times a day, starting with skills work at 6 a.m., weights in the afternoon and shooting in the evening.
"His work ethic is superior to any that I’ve been around,’’ Washington said. “He loves to get in the gym and get after it. We have our head-bumps in practice because he’s a competitor.’’
Sexton is soft-spoken and articulate in interviews. He doesn’t have a social media account and carries a 3.7 GPA. He recently read "The Great Gatsby’’ for leisure.
But in games, he’s animated and talkative. When Sexton came to Pebblebrook from Hillgrove after his sophomore season, Washington tried to channel his energy. He’d whistle him for technical fouls, often nit-picking, urging him to find the right balance.
"He’s two different people,’’ Washington said. ‘’Off the court, he’s quiet and humble and likes to laugh and be silly. Once he crosses that line, a flip switches on, and he becomes Collin Sexton the basketball player. He’s very demonstrative. He’s going to talk a little big during the process. He’s a competitor who wants to win.’’
Sexton likes that characterization. "That’s a great quote because that’s exactly who I am,’’ Sexton said. "Off the court, I’m very chill. People just see the court part. I’m very talkative and always in attack mode.’’
Sexton is averaging 32.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists this season for Pebblebrook, which many peg as the favorite in Class AAAAAAA. The Falcons are 10-5, all losses to out-of-state opponents as they’ve traveled to Washington, D.C., and Florida twice. Pebblebrook is at home Friday night against Westlake, a rematch of the 2016 title game.
McEachern coach Mike Thompson, whose team is ranked No. 1 after a 13-0 start, has called Pebblebrook the team to beat and Sexton the state’s best player.
"The kid is almost to a point where he’s either going to get a basket or going to the foul line,’’ Thompson said. "When you have kid like that, it definitely gives you a big advantage in close games. Pebblebrook has that guy who can take the ball at the end of the game and do something crazy with it.’’