``I tried out twice, my sophomore and junior year," the Hutchinson Junior College (Kan.) big man said. "I made the second cut my junior year."
Back then he was a 6-foot guard. Now, after four years in the Air Force and oozing with potential that has him considered as arguably the top JUCO prospect in the country, Pettway stands at 6-10 and 230 pounds and has become Maryland's top option if the Terps don't pry Rudy Gay away from UConn.
``I think he can get into any program in the country and make an immediate impact right away," said a Division 1 assistant coach. "He's got an NBA body – and definitely has NBA talent. The kid is ridiculous"
``He's very athletic, is quick off the floor, has a great body and is agile and versatile," added another major D-1 assistant. "He's absolutely an NBA player." However, one person who isn't falling for all the hype is, believe it or not, the 23-year-old Pettway.
``It's all crazy," Pettway said. "I don't believe it. Even being able to go to Hutchinson was a shock to me. All this is so unexpected. I want to see it on paper and then I'll halfway believe it, but I don't think of myself like that at all."
When Pettway came out of high school, he didn't really have options. His academics weren't all that good, so he ended up at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., after enlisting for four years in the military.
He played with the base basketball team and sprouted up an inch per year over the four years he was in the military. He ended up, with the help of Walter Ray, a local guy who runs EGOS (a program to give local kids a chance to be seen by colleges) getting enough exposure to land at Hutchinson and after a mediocre and injury-plagued season a year ago in the JUCO ranks, blew out in the last couple of months.
``I went back to Maryland at the end of the summer and was working at a law office and playing pickup," Pettway added. "I guess they saw my improvement because the word spread like wildfire."
It caught on so much that the Alabama native went from a player who nearly landed at High Point a year ago to one who has already taken a pair of official visits to Georgetown and Mississippi State. Maryland loves him – so does Alabama, Florida, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Oklahoma State and Florida State. Arizona even went down to take a peek last week. However, he will take a few more visits in the spring and then make a decision.
``He doesn't fall for the cosmetics of recruiting," Ray said. "He's the nicest kid in the world and doesn't want to have to narrow it down. The attention he's getting is almost embarrassing to him."
``I don't have a leader yet because it changes on a week to week basis by how much I talk to them," Pettway said. "My feeling is I'm going to go somewhere and it's not really who I want. It's who wants me."