MONTGOMERY — Collin Sexton and a highly rated freshman class helped deliver Alabama back to the NCAA Tournament.
The Crimson Tide might have to earn its next trip without the high-scoring point guard.
Sexton, a projected NBA draft lottery pick, certainly has the resume of a one-and-done college player, though he hasn't publicly indicated his plans. Even if he leaves, Alabama doesn't lose anybody else unless other another underclassman like fellow freshman John Petty opt to turn pro early.
Coach Avery Johnson, a former NBA player and head coach, said Alabama wants to "recruit kids that maybe have that talent that can get them to the professional ranks earlier than later." He brought in the program's most highly rated recruiting class and the result was the Tide's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2012 and first win in a dozen years .
Alabama's season ended with an 81-58 loss to top-seeded Villanova on Saturday.
Sexton was the centerpiece of that class, a highly touted top 10 recruit.
He instantly became the team's star, averaging 19.2 points and 3.8 rebounds and leading Alabama in assists. Sexton had huge performances in a Southeastern Conference tournament run that secured 'Bama's bid and scored 20-plus points in five straight games before finishing with 17 against Villanova.
After that game he was more interested in "celebrating with my team because we had a great season" than discussing his future plans.
"Also, I got to finish school, and I'm trying to finish with a 4.0" grade point average, he said.
Johnson's program turned in a positive direction this season with a series of wins over Top 25 teams in an up-and-down season. Even without Sexton, Alabama has some promising players — particularly if Petty returns.
Petty averaged 10.2 points and shot 37.2 percent from 3-point range. Center Donta Hall is another double-figure scorer, shot blocker and rebounder set for his senior season.
Dazon Ingram and Braxton Key were also key players for the Tide as sophomores, and freshman Herb Jones emerged as a top defender.
The Tide's three incoming signees include four-star point guard Jared Butler, a possible heir apparent to Sexton. Plus, Alabama gets former Texas leading scorer Tevin Mack , who sat out the season.
Johnson said the Tide needs to become a better shooting team, cut down on turnovers and build on that NCAA Tournament experience.
Already, Johnson figures that because of the recent recruits, "Alabama basketball is in a better place than where it was several years ago."