The bye week has given our SEC Country Auburn team the chance to diversify our coverage. We’ve provided a football-heavy focus for most of the fall, but parts of this week will be slightly different. We will begin bringing some more news regarding the Bruce Pearl-led basketball program.
Reader demand suggests football is king. That won’t change. But what Pearl is building in the gymnasium can’t be ignored. With the football off week, Pearl & Co. chose to hold an open scrimmage Wednesday evening, so you will reap the benefits of that wise decision.
There will be coverage of that later Wednesday.
But first, let’s begin by understanding what the buzz about the basketball team is all about. The team combined to go 26-40 in the two season since Pearl arrived. The overall record doesn’t do it justice, however, as the Tigers pulled off a deep SEC tournament run and invigorating victories over Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Georgia.
But the hype started far away from Auburn Arena. It began where all good programs begin: recruiting.
Since recruiting is the message in our In Plains Sight notebooks — and the basketball season is unofficially underway — it seemed like a good time to give you a rundown on all things basketball recruiting. You’ve likely heard the murmurs that started it all when Auburn nabbed a 5-star in the 2016 class — small forward Mustapha Heron.
That trend has continued with a number of recent additions to the 2017, 2018 and 2019 classes. Here is a look at the high-level talent Auburn is bringing in over the next few years.
2017 class (No. 1 in nation, No. 1 in SEC)
- 5-star Austin Wiley, Spain Park (Ala.): The 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward is the blue-chip prospect in the 2017 class. He’s the No. 7 at his position in the nation. The top prospect in the state of Alabama, Wiley is the No. 16 overall player nationally and had offers from Kansas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and others. He’s been committed for over a year, choosing Auburn on Sept. 25, 2015. Expect Wiley to contribute immediately whenever he gets on campus.
- 4-star Davion Mitchell, Liberty County (Ga.): Mitchell is a proven winner, helping his high school team to a state championship as a junior. At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Mitchell is a prototypical point guard product that can effectively orchestrate an offense. He’s the 11th-ranked point guard in the country for his class. He’s the No. 4 overall player in Georgia and No. 40 nationally. His offer sheet includes UConn, Florida, Georgia, Louisville, Memphis and Tennessee. His commitment has also reached its one-year anniversary. He verbally committed to Auburn on Oct. 10, 2015.
- 4-star Chuma Okeke, Westlake (Ga.): Okeke launched the Auburn commit train that took off during the summer. Okeke picked the Tigers on July 24, which jumpstarted an Auburn-loving couple of months for basketball recruits. Okeke adds depth at small forward. He’s a 6-foot-7, 225-pounder that ranks as the 11th-best small forward in the nation. He’s the eighth-ranked player in Georgia and the 56th overall player in the country. His offers from Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Virginia Tech show how highly coveted he was before Pearl snagged him.
2018 class (No. 4 in nation, No. 2 in SEC)
- 5-star E.J. Montgomery, Wheeler (Ga.): Here’s the 5-star heard ’round the world, or at least the southeast. On Sept. 22, the 6-foot-10, 200-pound power forward selected Auburn over Baylor, Miami, N.C. State and UCLA. Montgomery attended an Auburn football game recently and was seen having a blast — much like all the basketball recruits do when in attendance (Side note: Pearl brilliantly uses the football-first culture to his advantage). Montgomery is the No. 7 player at his position in the 2018 class. He’s the No. 2 player from Georgia and 14th overall in the nation.
2019 class (No. 5 in nation, No. 2 in SEC)
- 4-star Jared Jones, Pebblebrook (Ga.): Jones is only a sophomore, but he’s already showing what he can bring to the table once he arrives at Auburn. Jones was the most recent domino to fall when he made his verbal commitment on Sept. 29, kicking off the recruiting class for Auburn that is three years away. Jones will continue to add depth at power forward, a position Pearl has emphasized in recruitment since landing Heron. Jones is bigger than some of the other adds, standing 6-foot-9 and weighing 232 pounds. He’s lower rated by the 247Sports service, but Jones is still the No. 110 overall player — No. 4 in Georgia. He also sported offers from Florida, Florida State, Tennessee and Wake Forest.
That’s three top-5 classes. However there is still a lot of time for the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, etc. to close on some of the top prospects. Still, the Pearl magic is beginning to take form in recruiting. It’s probably a strong indication of the progress that will show up with the 2016 squad.
Former Michigan commit wants Auburn offer
I wouldn’t let you get away without your football fix.
Auburn has hosted a former junior Michigan commit on an unofficial visit this season for the LSU game. Jalil Irvin, a 4-star offensive guard, committed to Michigan in June and de-committed roughly two months later.
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound guard decided to step back and figure out more of his options. Some of that has involved communication with Auburn, though he still doesn’t have a Tigers offer. He holds offers from Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and others.
Irvin, from Stephenson (Ga.), talks with offensive line coach Herb Hand who told him to be patient on a potential upcoming offer. Irvin is waiting, but he’s eager.
“Coach Hand said I check all his boxes. I’m just going to keep being patient. Hopefully they pull the trigger,” Irvin told SEC Country. “They are one of my favorite schools. They would be in the top three.”
While Irvin refers to it as his top three, he admits that’s a more-or-less undefined group. He has Tennessee and Michigan high up on his preference list. Auburn would be up there too, but the top three itself is an otherwise unofficial group.
Irvin will be in Knoxville on Saturday for the Tennessee-Alabama game. He plays on the same high school team as 2017 safety commit Carlito Gonzalez.