AUBURN, Ala. — As thrilled as Auburn basketball is for its season opener against North Florida on Friday, the Tigers are just as eager to see their newest signees arrive on the Plains.
“All three of those guys are better defensively than they are offensively,” Pearl said. “All three of those guys are physically tough. And that’s really going to add an element to our team that we need.”
Pearl was ambiguous amidst some speculation that Wiley — whose parents Aubrey Wiley and Vickie Orr Wiley played for the Tigers — could arrive early to Auburn.
“He’s scheduled to be here with the 2017 class,” Pearl said Thursday afternoon. “That’s where he’s scheduled to be.”
The 6-foot-11, 255 pound Wiley’s commitment inspired other top recruits, including current starting guard Mustapha Heron (a 5-star prospect from Waterbury, Conn.), to sign with the Tigers.
With anticipation building for the Tigers’ home opener, Pearl never directly ruled out the possibility that Wiley could enroll early.
“He’s scheduled to come in with the 2017 class,” Pearl repeated. “He’s a senior in high school. And that would be my anticipation.”
Regardless of when Wiley or any other recruits could arrive, the Tigers first will play UNF.
Led by senior guard Dallas Moore (19.8 points per game) and senior forward Chris Davenport (12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds per game), the Ospreys have won back-to-back Atlantic Sun Conference Championships. They played in the first round of the NIT last season. In 2014-15, UNF lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“They’ve been places my kids have not been, that I haven’t been the last two years,” Pearl said. “They have an edge in that confidence, they have an edge in that experience and knowing what they do works.”
Auburn defeated Montevallo 96-68 in its exhibition game last Friday night in Auburn Arena. Heron, the first 5-star signee in program history, scored 26 points in his debut.
Along with Heron, Pearl started freshman point guard Jared Harper and redshirt freshman Danjel Purifoy.
“I have never started three freshmen before,” Pearl said. “This is the youngest team I’ve ever had. It will be interesting to see, again, as we continue to try to build some chemistry, winning will help. It will help because it makes things easier, it makes things happier. I know how to win and keep them focused. Losing is difficult because of the doubt that seeps in. We’re going to find out tomorrow night whether or not we’re good enough to beat that first opponent that we play.”
The Tigers tip off against UNF at 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday night.