Auburn’s basketball team has its most intense preseason hype of the Bruce Pearl era.
Much of that has to do with what the third-year head coach is doing on the recruiting trail. The Tigers were once atop the team recruiting rankings in the 2017 class. They’ve dropped off, only slightly, as other teams have added commitments, but Auburn still sits at No. 5.
Behind only Arizona, Washington, UCLA and Louisville, Pearl has the highest-ranked recruiting class among SEC programs, though a late Kentucky push is always to be expected.
As it stands, Auburn has three commits — 5-star forward Austin Wiley, 4-star guard Davion Mitchell and 4-star forward Chuma Okeke — all of whom plan to sign when the early signing period begins Wednesday. Take a deeper look at each prospect below.
The Tigers also are in the running for local 4-star forward Garrison Brooks, who is expected to select between Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU and North Carolina at Auburn High School on Wednesday morning. He will sign with whoever he chooses during the early signing period.
Austin Wiley, 5-star PF, Birmingham (Ala.)
Wiley is the prized jewel of the 2017 class and beyond. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward picked Auburn over Alabama, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas A&M and others on Sept. 26, 2015. When Wiley made his commitment, the Tigers began their original ascension to the top of the team recruiting rankings.
As a junior at Spain Park High (Ala.), Wiley averaged 19 points, 12.2 rebounds and 4 blocks. He’s the No. 1 overall player in the state of Alabama and the 16th-ranked player in the country. Both of his parents played basketball at Auburn.
“Bruce Pearl is building something special here at a place my family loves,” Wiley told the Montgomery Advertiser. “I met coach Pearl not long after he got the job and he told me I was his top priority. That meant a lot to hear that from him.”
Davion Mitchell, 4-star PG, Hinesville (Ga.)
Auburn’s second-highest-rated recruit is a defending state champion in Georgia. Mitchell is a floor general for his Liberty County High School squad, and the Tigers expect he’ll do the same at point guard for Auburn. Mitchell chose Auburn instead of Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia and Louisville last October, helping set the foundation for the recruiting momentum to come.
Mitchell averaged 24.2 points per game and 7.1 assists per game during Liberty County’s 28-1 season that ended in a state championship victory. The Auburn point guard commit is the 40th overall prospect in the 2017 class. He’s the 11th-ranked point guard overall and the fourth-ranked player in the state of Georgia.
“I expect championships, especially because we have the No. 1 big man in my eyes — the No. 1 player — so I expect at least a championship,” Mitchell told 247Sports.
Chuma Okeke, 4-star SF, Atlanta (Ga.)
Rounding out the confirmed early signees is Okeke, who joined the class with his verbal commitment on July 24. It was a tight battle for the 4-star small forward, but Okeke decided on Auburn rather than Kansas, Georgia or Mississippi State.
During his junior season, Okeke scored 22.7 points per game and hauled in 7.5 rebounds per contest. Ranked the 56th prospect overall, Okeke is the eighth-ranked player in the state of Georgia and the 11th-best small forward in the nation. Okeke plays at the same high school Cam Newton attended.
Why did Okeke select Auburn?
“The class coming in with me,” Okeke told 247Sports. “Also, it was close to home. So that kind of did it.”