I return from my brief hiatus grinning from ear to ear.
Auburn football landed Jarrett Stidham, Rogue One is in theaters, we’re a few days away from Christmas and Auburn basketball is nearing the end of its nonconference schedule sitting at 8-2 courtesy of this buzzer-beating corner three by T.J. Dunans.
T.J. Dunans wins it for Auburn at the buzzer. pic.twitter.com/nxG7xuHudb
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) December 18, 2016
Dunans’ dagger stole the show against Mercer. However, the story of the game was freshman center Austin Wiley. The 17-year-old made his college basketball debut Sunday.
Austin Wiley scores nine points and grabs three rebounds in his Auburn debut. Tigers beat Mercer by two at the buzzer. Now 8-2 overall.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 18, 2016
The 6-foot-11 freshmen checked in with 12:54 left in the first half, and it only took him a few seconds to find his way to the free-throw line.
Wiley only practiced twice before Sunday’s game, so I expected him to be a little winded as he adjusts to the speed of the college game. What I didn’t expect was for the 17-year-old to have such a veteran presence.
It’s clear that he still has to get used to the technique and terminology associated with Auburn’s defensive schemes — moving his feet, being in proper position, defending ball screens actions and such, but the freshmen’s size alone was enough to alter shots. That’s exactly what you want out of your 6-foot-11 center: a rim protector.
On offense, Wiley was calm, collected and confident. He showed off good hands, soft touch and a great basketball IQ.
Take this possession for example:
It may not look like much, but Wiley did his work early and established great position on the block. He was able to recognize the “dig” by closest perimeter defender, made the proper pass out of the double team and it led to an open 3-pointer for Dunans. We call that a “hockey assist”.
When Mercer didn’t bring the double team, Wiley went to work. A well-executed jump hook is one of the most unstoppable moves in basketball, and it looks like Wiley has it in his arsenal.
Though limited by conditioning, Wiley displayed a fantastic motor. He blocked a shot on one end, sprinted the entire length of the floor and if there was some chemistry between him and Ronnie Johnson, this entire sequence would have ended with a dunk. When Auburn’s guards eventually get on the same page with him, it’s going to be scary.
… And it’s only right that Wiley scored a go-ahead bucket with less than a minute to play.
There were a few missed shots around the rim that I’m sure Wiley would like to have back, but overall I don’t think he could’ve asked for a better debut.
He was poised, he wasn’t scared of the moment and he had a significant impact on the outcome of the game. Wiley gives Auburn an inside threat that it hasn’t seen in years, and the quicker he develops, the more balanced this team will become.
CJ Holmes is a former guard on the Auburn men’s basketball team. Follow him for more insight on Twitter at @_ceejay22au.