Jack Doss — the head coach of the East team at this week’s McDonald’s All-American Game — had just finished talking about the three future Kentucky Wildcats on his squad when he grinned and alluded to another five-star basketball prospect.
“I think I’ve got the No. 1 junior in the country,” he said. “In fact, he’ll be here next year.”
That player is John Petty, and he almost certainly will be a McDonald’s All-American in 2017.
Petty led J.O. Johnson High School to its second consecutive Alabama state title on March 5. The victory gave Doss a record nine state titles in his illustrious coaching career, and Petty has the potential to be his best player yet.
John Petty is the real deal. He’s a five star, but he’s a humble five star. He makes everyone around him better. He wants to lead his college team to a national championship.
Jack Doss, high school coach
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard scored 34 points in the championship game and was a do-it-all player throughout the season, averaging 19.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He also has hosted UK Coach John Calipari at his high school on multiple occasions, maybe more than any other player in the recruiting class of 2017.
“Cal’s already told me that he’s a top priority,” Doss said. “He’s come down and talked to us and really showed us some love, and we feel that love.”
Petty was the first player from the 2017 class to earn a scholarship offer from Calipari, who watched him at the Nike circuit stop in Lexington last April and extended the offer shortly after that.
Petty was a highly touted recruit at the time, but he was nowhere near the top of the rankings. Usually the first player in his class to get a UK offer is considered the best of the best by recruiting analysts. Petty currently is ranked as the No. 16 junior in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
“It was a little different,” said 247 national analyst Jerry Meyer. “Calipari was watching him, and I think he was just like, ‘Well, I don’t care what he’s ranked. I like this guy.’ He’s got that versatility that Calipari is really valuing right now. So he went ahead and made the offer.”
Almost immediately, the Petty-to-UK predictions started.
All of the picks on Petty’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page favor of the Cats, including Meyer’s.
“He has a complete game,” Meyer said of Petty. “I don’t know that there’s one thing that he really excels at, but he’s very good at everything.
“He can do a lot of different things and do them well.”
Petty put his team-first game on display this past season during a stop at the Marshall County Hoop Fest, leading J.O. Johnson to a victory over Hopkinsville and showing off his ability to score, pass, rebound and defend at a high level. He often would make the extra pass you don’t usually see from high school stars, and his attention to defense is well ahead of most of his peers.
“John Petty is the real deal,” Doss said. “He’s a five-star, but he’s a humble five-star. He makes everyone around him better. He wants to lead his college team to a national championship.”
Doss didn’t divulge much about the state of Petty’s recruitment — “My job is to get him where he needs to be,” he said. “The main thing is his progression” — but the high school coach obviously is a fan of the UK program and its current head coach.
As a kid in Alabama in the 1960s, Doss would listen to Cawood Ledford call UK games on the radio, and he fondly recalled hearing the exploits of players like Louie Dampier and Thad Jaracz.
As a coach, Doss has known Calipari since Cal’s Memphis days — calls him a friend — and first met UK assistant Kenny Payne back when Payne was a high school standout in Mississippi.
“So it’s kind of a family bond there,” Doss said. “My wife loves him to death. She adores Coach Cal. And I’ve always loved their program. Even when I was growing up as a teenager, I was a big Kentucky fan.”
Petty, who visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness in October, also has listed Alabama, Auburn and Georgia as schools that are recruiting him hard. That final college decision will be up to him, of course, but it can’t hurt UK’s chances to have someone like Doss so involved in his basketball life.
“There’s three or four great, great programs in college,” he said. “But I think Kentucky is basketball in this country. Their fans are so passionate.
“It’s just a first-class program.”