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Cavaliers Tab the "Young Bull" -- Collin Sexton -- with the No. 8 Pick
Less than a year ago, the Cavaliers’ point guard position was thrown into disarray not long after falling in the NBA Finals.
On Thursday night, less than two weeks after getting bumped again by the Warriors, the Wine & Gold reloaded at the one, tabbing the “Young Bull” – explosive Alabama point guard Collin Sexton – with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
”I’m glad the Cavs picked me at No. 8,” said Sexton, sporting a crimson dinner jacket just a shade off the wine he’ll wear in Cleveland, “When I was working out for them, I felt like it was one of my better workouts; probably one of my best workouts actually. So I’m very excited to be part of this organization.”
”Obviously, he’s a talented point guard that can score, can get into the lane, he’s athletic, he’s got upside, his shooting is improving,” said Cavs GM Koby Altman. “But what we’re trying to be about in Cleveland right now is guys with great attitude, great work ethic and guys that really want to be here.
”And when I called him tonight, he wanted to run here. He exploded out of the phone how much he wanted to be here. And that’s meaningful to us, that’s meaningful for the city.”
Like most of this year’s Lottery picks, Sexton was a one-and-done guy with the Crimson Tide – but it was a memorable single season.
And as good as he was at year’s end – scoring 31 points to top Auburn in the SEC Tourney and netting 25 against Virginia Tech to give Bama its first NCAA Tournament win since 2006 – it was actually a loss in late November that put the Young Bull on the map.
In that November 25 matchup between Alabama and then-14th-ranked Minnesota, injuries and disqualifications forced the Crimson Tide to play 3-on-5 for the final 10 minutes of the contest. Sexton led the charge, scoring 31 of his 40 points in the second half as Bama actually outscored the Golden Gophers, 30-22, while shorthanded.
Sexton’s Crimson Tide would go on to lose the game, 89-84, but their star guard showed exactly what he was made of in the same building he would eventually be drafted in on Thursday night.
He continued to show his mettle the rest of the way, finishing the campaign as the both the SEC’s Newcomer and Freshman of the Year. The 6-3, 190-pounder from Georgia was also named All-SEC First Team by the media and an AP Honorable Mention All-American.
As the Draft shook out, some of the top bigs came off the board early and Dallas and Atlanta swapped two of the night’s top two playmakers – Luka Doncic and Trae Young – in the top five picks. In that respect, the Cavaliers – who’d struggled to find a consistent replacement at the point all year – got exactly what they were looking for.
”For me, the playmaking piece was really key,” said Altman. “I think there were some really good bigs in this Draft, I think there were some really good wings in this Draft. But this was a point of need and, at that point, you definitely want to take the best talent – but when it aligns it’s a really good thing and we were fortunate that he was there.”
Sexton’s college coach, former NBA guard Avery Johnson, was in attendance at Barclays Center to support his young star – and he was effusive in his praise.
”Can you make a play when the play breaks down? He has that ability,” said Johnson. “Whether it’s the mid-range, the pull-up three, getting to the basket for three-point plays, he’s the fastest guy with and without the ball that I’ve seen in my career.
”And he has that entertainment factor – he’s a guy that fans in Cleveland are really gonna embrace. And he’s a hard worker, he spends a lot of time in the gym, so they’re really enjoy getting to know him and watch him on the court.”
But he also drew plenty of praise from opposing coaches at Alabama.
Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said Sexton’s “talent is semi-other-worldly,” while Villanova’s Jay Wright called him “the most dynamic guard we’ve played all year.”
Sexton earned his nickname because of his relentless, physical style. He’s constantly in attack mode, plays downhill and doesn’t shy from the spotlight. He averaged 19.2 points on 45 percent shooting and improved as the season went on – scoring a school-record 79 points in the Alabama’s three SEC Tournament games.
He posted 29 double-digit scoring games in his single season in Tuscaloosa – including 16 games of 20 more points and three games topping the 30-point plateau. Sexton’s 40-point performance in the wild loss to Minnesota was a freshman school record.
As good as his offensive numbers were, Sexton has the ability (and willingness) to become an outstanding defender.
”The most important side is the defensive side just because of all the players you have to go against night in, night out,” said the 19-year-old who earned a 4.0 grade average in his single season at Alabama.
”(Sexton) is going to defend; he’s going to take on the challenge,” concluded Altman. “In this league, it’s so hard to guard people. You’re not going to shut down the toughest players in the world, you’re just not. But you can make it tough for them, you can make it hard for them.
”He’s going to compete, he’s not scared. And I think Cleveland, Ohio is going to get behind this kind of kid.”