One thing was clear when Austin Wiley took the floor at the USA U-19 Training Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., last week — the rising sophomore has spent ample time in Auburn’s weight room since last season ended.
Even among the nation’s best amateur players, Wiley stood out physically as one of the most “imposing,” according to SEC Country Kentucky writer Kyle Tucker. Yet, the dominance Wiley exerted all week, or his being named to the U-19 roster for the FIBA World Cup, didn’t surprise Auburn coach Bruce Pearl.
“When Austin was 18, or when he was 17 when he got to Auburn, and he’s going up against guys that are 20, 21 or 22, you could tell it was there,” Pearl said. “But he wasn’t going to dominate in the SEC against older players like he was able to dominate guys his own age.”
Repeat: Austin Wiley is a problem. Mercy. pic.twitter.com/L490yapFRo
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_SEC) June 22, 2017
Still, the progress Wiley’s made this offseason is undeniable.
“Austin was the most physical player at Team USA camp,” Pearl said. “I think that the fact that his motor always runs were two things that showed up to coach [John] Calipari and that coaching staff. I think that the adjustments that Austin would have made from last year to this year, he’s much quicker.
“He’s much more explosive. He’s always been fast, but now he’s utilizing that speed to his advantage. I think the other thing to keep in mind is when Austin is at the trials, he’s going against other U-19 players; he’s going to physically stand out.”
Pearl is levelheaded about his likely starting center and is keeping the value of Wiley’s U-19 experience in perspective.
“It’s sort of a double-edged sword, but he’s doing great,” Pearl said. “This is a family tradition for the Orrs and the Wileys. Vickie Orr is a former Olympian, his mom, and an All-American at Auburn.”
That family tradition could develop into a very good thing for the future of the Auburn program, Pearl said.
“It means an awful lot to him and it’s a great, great thing for Auburn basketball because we’re trying to establish more history and tradition and have another guy playing in the Olympics like Chuck Person did or like Charles Barkley did.”