J.O. Johnson High in Huntsville is closing in a few months, to be replaced by new school -- Mae Jemison High, named for the first African-American female astronaut. John Petty of Johnson plays like an astronaut, as in out of this world and in orbit. He draws a crowd, on and off the court. On the court, he must be accounted for, even if it means double-teaming him. Off the court, a cornucopia of college coaches is sure to be found at his games.
Friday Night Lights was there to see the final game of Petty’s junior season Saturday at the AHSAAA Class 5A championship game at the BJCC in Birmingham. To the categories:
TOP PROSPECT: We already gave that one away in the first paragraph. John Petty is a 6-6 wing player who most feel is the best in his class, though many votes would go to 6-10 Spain Park center Austin Wiley, an Auburn pledge. (Wiley and that group of Jaguars fell 63-61 in overtime to Central Phenix City in the 7A semis. Wiley had 19 points, 13 boards and four blocks in the loss, and Bama recruit Jamal Johnson had 20 points, nine rebounds).
Back to Petty: He helped the Johnson Jaguars to a 71-50 win over Faith Academy to add yet another title to the bulging resume of Coach Jack Doss. Doss said Petty never ceases to amaze him.
“He put a show on the whole game,” said Doss, who has won nine state crowns at three schools. “I’ve had a number of All-Americans (including former Bama star Buck Johnson, Jamal’s dad, back at Hayes High.) I’ll get after them too, in practice, and John understands that.”
Petty added: “I felt great. I just went out and gave it my all for J.O. Johnson, and left it out on the court.”
Added Faith Coach John Price of Petty: “He’s a great player, and on this stage you want them to make great plays. He was able to get in a rhythm. Once he elevates, it’s hard to stop him. He dribbles himself into those shots.”
Petty, the 5A MVP, poured in 32 points, and his box score also showed seven boards, three blocks, three assists and two steals in the win. He showed tenacity early when his first shot was blocked by returning the favor at the defensive end. He wears no. 23, and at times can be Jordanesque. He’s the type of guy who can dunk one trip, and pull up for a long 3-pointer the next, and nail it. He canned a long trey to end the first quarter, when the whole BJCC knew he was going to shoot it. Moments, later, he wound up for a windmill dunk, proving the 3-ball/dunk theory espoused earlier.
Doss, ever the gamesman, took Petty out three minutes before the half, and held the ball before calling time out at 14.6 seconds. Back in the game, Petty calmly caught an alley-oop, and reverse layed it in.
He’s special. And he can stop on a dime to create his own shot. Did I mention he nailed an NBA 3 to end the third quarter? Too many highlights to list, really. As one media member said who has watched Petty his entire career: “He’s a freak.” And he is, in the good way.
Petty likes to shoot the baseline fade away jumper that Jordan patented back in the day. He’s also an excellent passer. Petty could play small forward or shooting guard at the next level. Many teams are battling for his services, but Kentucky and Alabama are expected to be the finalists.
SENIORS WHO SHINED: Petty’s teammate, 6-3 forward Justin Hopkins, is a jumping jack who has signed to play for former Kentucky Coach Scott Padgett at Samford. He tallied 11 points and seven boards, including a nice alley-oop slam.
For the Rams, Josh Hill is listed at 6-4, but he plays much bigger. Hill had 21, and nailed 3-4 behind the arc. Teammate Roderick Williams joined Hill on the all-tourney team and scored 16.
JUNIORS TO WATCH: Faith’s RJ Mhoon is 6-6 and can score the basketball, but his shot was off Saturday and he only had two points. His teammate, 6-3 Jalen Wayne, added six points, three assists.
For the Jags, Brandon Crosby at point guard is a 5-10 guy who runs Doss’ offense to near perfection. He had five assists and four points.
UNDERCLASSMEN WATCH: Ninth grader Brandon Nicholas is a key member of the Johnson team, and Saturday he had nine points to cap a good year.
CRIMSON CONNECTION: With her team eliminated from the SEC Tourney, Alabama women’s Coach Kristi Curry had time to scout Saturday, and she was on hand to see Wenonah destroy Central of Tuscaloosa, 48-33, for the 5A title.
Curry was undoubtedly present to watch Wenonah six-foot junior forward Alexus Dye, the 5A girls MVP. Dye scored 12 points, grabbed 10 boards, and was off her game a bit, but it didn’t matter.
MEDIA FOOD REVIEW: Jim’N Nick’s catered the event all week. For Saturday lunch, we had fried chicken almost as good as your grandmother’s. I said almost Throw in mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans with bits of ham, their signature cheddar biscuits, and a Jim n’ Nicks BBQ coupon for 10 per cent off, and well, life is good.