ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. — As the deadline approaches for players to either stay in the 2018 NBA Draft or return to school, Bruce Pearl says there is a good possibility Auburn basketball brings everybody back for the upcoming season.
Pearl said Monday morning that with nine days left until the May 30 deadline, there’s a “good chance” that Austin Wiley, Mustapha Heron, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper all decide to stay on the Plains.
“They’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said Monday before his annual BP Fore the Children Golf Classic. “There’s a chance they could all come back. But that’s been the case from the very beginning. I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think the chance improves.”
Pearl said it still wouldn’t surprise him to see “a couple of them stay in.”
Of Auburn’s potential outgoing group, Wiley has the best chance of getting drafted next month. He participated in the NBA Draft Combine last week in Chicago.
Yet, as Pearl noted Monday, there weren’t many prospective first-round draft spots for those participating in the combine.
“It’s really hard to get into the first round, where there’s guaranteed money,” Pearl said. “There’s only 30 spots. Twenty or so kids didn’t even work out at the combine. You add in the European guys, it’s tough. About 75 percent of the second-round guys have to spend so much time in the G League now. I think the NBA, when it enhanced the G League, I think they thought maybe it would encourage more kids to come out. I think it’s actually done the opposite.
“I think a few years ago, a mid-second round pick, even though it wasn’t guaranteed, you had a better chance of seeing the floor at some point. Now, they just send you right to the G League. I don’t think anybody would prefer that necessarily at age 18 or 19 or 20 to being in college and playing against our competition and continuing to train.”
Heron initially declared for the draft earlier this year with intent on hiring an agent. He has not done that, leaving him the option to return to Auburn for his junior season.
The Connecticut native has worked out with the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He will also work out with the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets before May 30.
Both Brown and Harper, who are widely expected to return to school, have worked out with the Atlanta Hawks.
“Everybody’s asking a lot of questions in the springtime about how recruiting is going,” Pearl said. “It’s almost more about retention than it is about recruiting. I think all four of the players — Jared and Bryce, Mustapha and Austin — have gone into this process in great shape, worked out really well, and they’re gathering information.”
Pearl said the amount of Tigers going through draft process has made it challenging for the staff to recruit. Auburn has two scholarships available, even if all four players decide to return to Auburn.
But with several months left before the season, Pearl said he’s been focused on his four who are testing the waters as individuals instead of a collective unit.
“Our mission is to get our student-athletes from here to there,” Pearl said. “It’s my job to help those guys get those degrees and have an opportunity to play professional basketball. It’s been the case all spring long — focus on the individual. It’s not time to worry about the team. It’s time to worry about them and what they’re doing. Help them realize those individual goals.
“If we get the kind of information that tells us their best interest is to come back as an individual, they’ll come back, and then we’ll build a team.”