Avery Johnson has more National Basketball Association draft experience than most third-year college coaches. After spending more than two decades in the NBA as a player and a coach, he had reason to be back at the draft last week.

Collin Sexton became the first player under Johnson to be chosen in the NBA draft when the Cleveland Cavaliers picked him eighth overall. His college coach was there with him in the green room. That experience had Johnson more nervous than he had ever been as an NBA coach or player.

“He’s like one of my sons and he’s going to hear his name called,” Johnson said on Thursday. “He’s representing Alabama basketball. All the time you spent behind the scenes honing his craft and all of the hard work he put in on his own, he comes from a really solid family.”

Sexton was the third-highest draft pick in school history and the first Alabama player chosen in the lottery since Antonio McDyess went second overall in 1995. The one-and-done star was also drafted higher than any guard in school history.

His one-year impact included an NCAA Tournament appearance, but Johnson hopes Sexton’s legacy in Tuscaloosa extends beyond the season. He said he and his assistant coaches are reminding recruits of the success Sexton had.

“We can’t mention any names, but we continue to roll up our sleeves and work hard,” Johnson said. “That’s really been nothing but a positive for us. Especially as we’re trying to spread the word a little bit, not only in the state of Alabama but further in the footprint. It’s a positive for us. … That means a lot. Kids are watching, families are watching.”

Sexton was the first of seven SEC players chosen in the draft. Among Alabama’s top five players by minutes played last season, Sexton is the only one who won’t be back for the Crimson Tide. Several other SEC schools have top players returning for the 2018-19 season, but Johnson was sanguine about his team’s outlook.

“We’re excited about where we’re going,” Johnson said. “We’re going to be a much more experienced team this year instead of being the fourth-youngest team in the country. We are adding two guys to our team this year that have experience in Tevin Mack and Riley Norris. I’m just thrilled about our potential and what lies ahead for Alabama basketball.”


Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or 205-722-0196.