The Southeastern Conference was the big winner as the early signing period in men’s basketball heated up Thursday with announcements from six players ranked in the top40 in the Class of 2017.
Alabama might have had the best day with the additions of Collin Sexton, a 6-3 shooting guard from Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.), and John Petty, a 6-5 shooting guard from Mae Jemison (Huntsville, Ala.). Petty, the reigning Mr. Basketball in Alabama, chose the in-state Crimson Tide over Kentucky.
Sexton, unranked as recently as 18 months ago, had the most dominant summer of any player in the country after averaging 29 points per game as a junior at Pebblebrook and rocketed to No. 10 in the rankings.
Sexton and Petty join Pelham (Ala.) forward Alex Reese, Hale County (Moundville, Ala.) guard Herb Jones and Clinton (Miss.) center Galin Smith in the Crimson Tide’s recruiting class, which is being touted as the highest in program history.
“I’m extremely excited for the future of the program,” Smith said. “As a group we’re all very similar so we gel very well. Alabama will soon be a powerhouse in basketball as well as football, so I hope everyone buckles up.”
Kentucky entered the day without any players committed and ended it with two of the top16: 6-11 center Nick Richards from The Patrick School (Hillside, N.J.) and 6-8 power forward P.J. Washington from Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). Richards is ranked No. 12 by ESPN, and Washington is No. 16.
“Back in the sixth grade I set three goals: play for gold with USA Basketball, play at Kentucky and play in the NBA,” Washington wrote in a blog for USA TODAY Sports. “Today I crossed off the second goal on that list. I feel like playing at Kentucky will give me the best chance to cross off the third.”
Georgia was the last program in the SEC to get a commitment in the Class of 2017, and that came Thursday as the Bulldogs kept Rayshaun Hammonds in the state. Hammonds is a 6-8 forward from Norcross High who is ranked No. 38.
Among the six players, the lone non-SEC decision came from the highest-ranked player. Gary Trent Jr., a 6-5 shooting guard who is ranked No. 8, chose Duke over Michigan State and UCLA. Trent, son of the ex-NBA player, is in his first season at Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) after spending previous seasons at Apple Valley (Minn.). Trent cited coach Mike Krzyzewski as the reason he chose Duke.
“He’s a brand himself, and his track record is amazing,” Trent wrote in a blog for USA TODAY Sports. “He’s the winningest coach of all time, and I truly believe that he can do nothing but improve and benefit my life in every way, shape and form. I really believe that he’s going to help me grow into a great basketball player — but also an even greater young man.”
The SEC already was riding high with Auburn’s top-five class led by 6-9 center Austin Wiley, a top 20 recruit who returns to his home state. Wiley is playing his senior year at Conrad Academy in Orlando after transferring from Spain Park (Hoover, Ala.).
Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Arkansas have classes ranked in the top 25 by most analysts. South Carolina on Thursday added 6-9 center Felipe Haase, a Chilean native who starred in the summer FIBA Americas Under-18 event.
The early signing period runs through Wednesday. Fifteen of the top 25 in the ESPN rankings, including five of the top 10, are uncommitted, with most expected to wait until spring.
Girls top five
Megan Walker, the nation’s top-ranked recruit, picked Connecticut on Thursday. Walker, a 6-1 wing from Monacan High (North Chesterfield, Va.), chose the Huskies over Texas and Notre Dame. The No. 2 player, South Salem (Ore.) guard Evina Westbrook, selected Tennessee.
Rellah Boothe, a 6-1 forward from IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) who is ranked as the No. 3 player, signed with Texas. Chasity Patterson, a 5-6 point guard from North Shore (Houston), also signed with Texas.
Sidney Cooks, a 6-4 forward from Saint Joseph (Kenosha, Wis.) who is ranked No. 5, will announce her decision Tuesday.
Contributing: Jason Jordan