Get to Know the 2019-2020 Auburn Men's Basketball Team
AUBURN, Ala.- Following a historic season that ended at the Final Four, the Auburn Men's Basketball team will have a different look to them this season.
The Auburn Tigers followed up a 2017-2018 SEC regular season championship with high expectations going into last year. After an up and down start to last season, Auburn would win 12 straight games to help them win an SEC Tournament title, and also reach the Final Four. The Tigers would fall short 63-62 to eventual National Champion Virginia .
Three key players on that team are now in the NBA: Bryce Brown, Jared Harper, and Chuma Okeke. Not to mention, Malik Dunbar and Horace Spencer also are no longer on the team and are playing professional basketball overseas.
So, who exactly are the 2019-2020 Auburn Tigers?
The good news for Head Coach Bruce Pearl, he has several guys returning from last year's Final Four team. Seven seniors will lead this squad on the hardwood this season. One of them is forward Anfernee McLemore. McLemore was one of the SEC's most dominant players defensively in the front court a few years ago before he suffered a leg injury. He averaged nearly three blocks a game in 2017-2018. He also is one of the best shooting forwards in the nation with a 35.2% from beyond the arc.
Next to McLemore under the basket is senior center Austin Wiley. The Hoover native came into Auburn as one of the highest recruits in program history. The former five star prospect has been battling injuries throughout his career and has yet to have his dominant season everyone expected. Bruce Pearl at the inaugural Tip Off at Toomers asked the crowd during Tiger Talk, "Do you guys know 12 better players in the SEC than Austin Wiley?". Pearl was referring to the preseason basketball voting where Wiley was not voted in. Now that he is healthy, the sixth year head coach is expecting a breakout season from his 6'11" big man.
Replacing arguably the best back court in the country from last year with Jared Harper and Bryce Brown will be difficult. These two averaged a combined 31.2 PPG last season and shot an average of 39.0% from the three point line. Having the two men that were their backups last year who played valuable minutes will help with J'von McCormick and Samir Doughty. These seniors have the talent to replace the dynamic duo of Harper and Brown, and it will be fun to see the new style of play they bring.
Another senior has a lot of eyes on him too. Danjel Purifoy has been through a lot of ups and downs as a Tiger. In his first on court season at Auburn, the Forward played relentlessly and averaged 11.5 PPG and nearly five blocks. After not playing for a year and starting off slow last season, he heated up late during tournament time. He was a valuable tool after Chuma Okeke tore his ACL against North Carolina. In his final season at Auburn, look for a skinnier Purifoy to be on a revenge tour and back to his old ways.
This team is not just full of veteran guys returning. Auburn this past off season turned in one of the nation's best recruiting classes. The class is highlighted by a possible one and done as well.
Issac Okoro, a four star shooting guard/forward combo, is a man who will have an immediate impact. He had a composite 0.987 rating from 247SPORTS. This man's strength is his defense without question. According to Bruce in several meetings with the media, he has said his offense has been improving as well. Okoro has a high chance of not only playing but starting. Do not be surprised when you see him on the post season All-SEC Freshmen team, and getting his name called in the 2020 NBA Draft possibly.
A newcomer who has already been in the program practicing for a year is redshirt sophomore Jamal Johnson. Johnson, the Memphis transfer, was the high school teammate of Austin Wiley at Spain Park High School. The 6'4" guard will more than likely be a backup to Samir Doughty at the guard position, but Johnson could also run the point if necessary.
Tyrell "Turbo" Jones is freshman point guard from Chicago. Jones is a true freshman and will get a lot of playing time this year as the backup to McCormick. Jones in high school was well known not only for his pace and decision making with the ball, but he also has a solid shooting ability to compliment his game.
Two other notable additions to the guard position are Devan Cambridge and Allen Flanigan. Both are three star recruits, and have a good ability to score. And yes, Allen is the son of current Auburn assistant coach and former player Wes Flanigan.
Everyone calls him "Stretch". Not only is it because he has a wingspan of over seven feet and is 6'10", but it is because his real name is Babatunde Akingbola. Yes, you read that right. Akingbola is from Nigeria and played high school basketball with Isacc Okoro. Pearl has said that Stretch has been the best communicator on the team so far through fall camp. The head coach has also said that the addition of him is good because they now have someone to go up against Austin Wiley in practice. Look for Akingbola to play a lot down low this year behind Wiley.
Jaylin Williams is another power forward that Auburn is excited about. He was ranked the 19th power forward in the nation and number four in the state of Georgia. Despite having McLemore and Purifoy in front of him, expect to see him and his 6'8" 225 frame play a big role on defense.
One final newcomer is a transfer from Holmes Community College. Javon Franklin averaged nearly a double-double in his stint in JUCO and is looking for that to translate over into the SEC. He was formerly ranked as the number one shooting forward in Arkansas and fourth overall in the nation. His ability to rebound the ball is overshadowed by his offensive play, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This man can fit into Pearl's system well off the bench.
Despite having lost several key players from last year, Auburn has an experienced core of seniors and a talented group of freshmen that they will display this season. This is a big reason why Auburn is projected to finish fourth in the SEC this year and was ranked 24th in the AP preseason poll.
It is hard to follow up a Final Four season with another, and after last year's run it is safe to say the expectations are high. This team is more than capable of accomplishing great things yet again, especially with having Bruce Pearl at the helm.
Auburn's first game is an exhibition on Friday November 1st against Eckerd. The game will begin approximately 30 minutes after the volleyball game that night against Mississippi State at 6:00 PM CT.