College coaches from Alabama, Auburn and elsewhere have been spotted in Birmingham scouting all week, but Anthony Grant and Bruce Pearl had other matters to attend to Saturday. Women’s coaches from those schools were on hand, however. To the categories:
PETTY OFFICER: Venerable Coach Jack Doss has had some great ones over the years play for him. Names like Buck Johnson and Trevor Lacey may ring a bell. Doss, who Saturday won his eighth state crown at his third school, has another special kid this year, and he’s just a sophomore. John Petty, a 6-4 and still-growing wing, scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead J.O. Johnson to a 59-52 win over Kirk McNair’s alma mater, the Ramsay Rams. Petty had four assists, three steals, and a block, and was named 5A tourney MVP.
“John Petty turned 16 in December,” said Doss, who also won titles at Hayes and Butler. “If (Petty’s) not Mr. Basketball, what more’s he got to prove?
“I said (earlier) he’s a young Dominique Wilkins (a former Georgia and Atlanta Hawks star), but he’s a better shooter than Dominique was. I’ve been around great players. They all had goals. You’ve got to have goals. John’s got goals.” John also makes goals.
Of his evolving game, Petty added, “I’ve been working on my strength, my ball-handling, and my form on my shooting. Intangibles like that.”
Petty’s very early list of schools includes Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Kansas State and Mississippi State. Pearl and Grant both saw him play Thursday night, when some games were shifted to the Bill Harris Arena at the CrossPlex in west Birmingham. That night, Petty scored 21 with nine boards as the Jags beat Faith Academy.
Petty showed explosiveness on an early second quarter dunk. He quickly followed that up with a trey from the top of the key and a clean block on a Ramsay 3-ball attempt. He can run, jump, shoot and defend. And dunk, as he added another over a hapless Ram with just over two minutes to go to finish with three slams. When discussing the state’s top players in 2017, you start with 6-10 Aubrey Wiley of Spain Park (both parents played at Auburn) but then you quickly arrive at Petty and Jamal Johnson (son of ex-Tider Buck). The state is loaded in that class.
In some ways, Petty resembles 6-6 Madison Academy junior Josh Langford, who led the Mustangs to the 3A title over Piedmont by scoring 19, grabbing 12 boards, and dishing seven assists to go with two blocks and a steal Friday.
ROPIN’ ROLLIN’ BRANDON: A few hours later, the Carver Wolverines and Alabama signee Brandon Austin, a 6-5 wing, defeated Lee-Huntsville 57-55 in a nail-biter. Austin had a dunk waved off due to clock expiration at the end of the first half. He finished with 20 points on 5-12 shooting (2-for-7 behind the arc), and added five boards and five steals. His game has similarities with that of current Tider Levi Randolph, but Austin is more athletic. He can drive the baseline and finish at the rim with a dunk or a strong lay-up. He missed his first two free throws, but in the fourth quarter he made eight straight to put the Generals away. He has hoops smarts rivalling those of ex-Bama player Andrew Steele.
In the Wolverines’ semifinal win over Woodlawn, Austin scored a game-high 18 points, and grabbed five boards to go with two steals and a block. He hit 2-of-8 from three in that game, and wowed the crowd with what was said to be an astounding dunk late. As an aside, two of Austin’s teammates are top Tide football recruits Mack Wilson and Marlon Davidson. Wilson started and scored four and grabbed five boards, and Davidson had to miss the Final Four due to the death of his mother. Condolences to the Davidson and Carter families. (Davidson’s older brother, Kenneth Carter, played at Auburn.)
6A Tourney MVP Austin said, “I had to put my team on my back, and take them where they needed to be. I felt a weight on my shoulders after not scoring last year in the semis.”
Added Carver Coach (and former Bama player) J.J. Jackson, “In the fourth quarter, we had some big shots by ‘B.A.’ He brought stability for us all season. He kept things going for us all year scoring-wise and with defensive intensity. He was helping us win games while the rest of the team grew up.”
CRIMSON CONNECTION: Years ago, late in the Bryant football era and early in the Perkins years, a solid offensive lineman wore no. 72 and played well. His name is Willard Scissum, and he also spent a brief time as a grad assistant at Bama. Now, his son is an SEC prospect for Huntsville’s Lee High in hoops. Gerron Scissum is, 6-7, 190-pound senior is being heavily recruited by Andy Kennedy of Ole Miss, and it would surprise no one if that’s where he signs. Before readers jump to criticize Grant for this, Alabama’s team needs more bulk than Scissum brings. In the 6A finals against Carver, Scissum tallied 10 points, nine boards and four steals. He fouled out, and made all-tourney. Offensively, he mainly plays on the perimeter.
FACES IN THE CROWD: Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of Florida State and nearby Hueytown was on hand as a fan, and calling the games on TV was former Tide Head Coach Wimp Sanderson. Bama linebacker Reggie Ragland was on hand cheering for fellow Madison Countians Johnson, and Bama women’s Head Coach Kristi Curry was present to scout a pair of juniors: 5A MVP Kaitlyn Rodgers, who scored only four but grabbed eight boards and dished seven dimes. In her team’s semifinal win over Talladega, the 6-2 Rodgers tallied 19 points, 12 boards and nine blocks. Curry stuck around to watch junior Cierra Johnson and Blount take on Homewood for the 6A title. The 5-11 point guard finished the game with 24 points in a loss. In the Leopards’ semifinal win over Shades Valley, Johnson had 19 points, 10 boards and dealt six assists. Curry’s first commitment, Shaquera Wade of Huntsville High, was honored Saturday by the Birmingham Tip-off Club as the state’s player of the year. Wade had nine points, 14 boards in a semifinal loss to McGill-Toolen in the 7A bracket.
NEXT UP: On Friday, March 20, the annual Alabama/Mississippi All-Star game will be played on the Alabama State campus in Montgomery. Though not official, it’s expected that both of the other two early Tide signees will be selected to play. That will provide FNL a chance to scout 6-10 Donta Hall of Luverne and 6-5 Dazon Ingram of Theodore. Ingram fouled out with 3:20 left in the second overtime in his team’s Final Four loss to Mountain Brook Thursday night after scoring 12 points and grabbing 14 boards. He also had four assists, three steals and a pair of blocks. Like Wade, he was named state player of the year Saturday.