Auburn fly­ing high as sign­ing pe­riod be­gins

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Dave Skretta

The Auburn Tigers as­sured them­selves one of the na­tion’s top re­cruit­ing classes when the early sign­ing pe­riod be­gan Wed­nes­day.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl felt like a win­ner two days be­fore his team even plays its first game.

The Tigers as­sured them­selves one of the na­tion’s top re­cruit­ing classes when the early sign­ing pe­riod be­gan Wed­nes­day. It is head­lined by top-10 prospect Austin Wi­ley, whose par­ents both starred for Auburn, and in­cludes four-star prospects Davion Mitchell and Chuma Okeke.

“This class is historic,” said Pearl, who is try­ing to bounce back from an 11-20 mark in his sec­ond sea­son with the Tigers. “It started with Austin Wi­ley, about a year and a half ago, com­mit­ting to us prior to his ju­nior year . ... He had offers from ev­ery­where, but he wanted to be an Auburn man.”

His mother, Vickie, was an All-Amer­i­can for the Tigers. His fa­ther, Aubrey, was a star re­bounder.

“But Austin could have gone any­where in the coun­try,” Pearl said. “More im­por­tantly, he wanted to lead even be­fore he got here. He knew that his ver­bal com­mit­ment might at­tract oth­ers . ... Now he’s go­ing to come here and add to the his­tory and legacy of his fa­ther.”

Wi­ley, Mitchell and Okeke sent in signed let­ters of in­tent on the first day prospects are al­lowed. Some of the big­gest names in this year’s class have yet to make their de­ci­sions.

Un­like football, where sign­ing day usu­ally rep­re­sents the fin­ish line, it is merely the start­ing line in col­lege bas­ket­ball. The early pe­riod doesn’t end un­til Nov. 16, and some will wait to see how things shake out at other schools be­fore sign­ing a let­ter of in­tent in the spring.

Still, the early pe­riod gives some barom­e­ter for where schools are in their re­cruit­ing ef­forts:

Desert Swarm

Top-ranked prospect DeAn­dre Ay­ton, a 7-footer from Hill­crest Academy in Phoenix, leads Ari­zona coach Sean Miller’s starstud­ded class. He was ex­pected to land let­ters of in­tent from three more top-100 re­cruits in Bran­don Ran­dolph, Ira Lee and Alex Bar­cello, and he’s in the run­ning for five-star swing­men Lon­nie Walker and Brian Bowen, top guard Hami­dou Diallo, and big man Bran­don McCoy.

PAC-12 POWER: Ari­zona may top the early re­turns, but its con­fer­ence as a whole has been tear­ing up the re­cruit­ing trail. Ore­gon landed five-star guard Troy Brown de­spite over­tures from Kansas, Ge­orge­town and Alabama, while fives­tar for­ward Michael Porter headlines a five-deep class at Wash­ing­ton.

Porter will be joined on coach Lorenzo Ro­mar’s floor by four-star guards Jaylen Now­ell and Dae­jon Davis, St. Louis-area for­ward Mamoudou Diarra and North Carolina guard Blake Har­ris.

Champs Reload

Vil­lanova coach Jay Wright has reeled in 6-foot-6 for­ward Jer­maine Sa­muels, who ap­pears tai­lor-made to re­place se­nior Josh Hart. Wright also hooked Dhamir Cosby Roundtree, a some­what un­der­sized post player from Philadel­phia, who had offers up and down the East Coast.

Vil­lanova is also in the run­ning for Walker and Philly guard Quade Green.

Blue­bloods Hunt­ing

Duke has only one com­mit­ment in Ge­or­gia guard Alex O’Con­nell, Kansas has one in Dal­las guard Marcus Gar­rett, and Ken­tucky has yet to land its first com­mit­ment for next year.

That may sound omi­nous for now, but just wait un­til things shake out.

The Blue Dev­ils are in the mix for top-10 prospects Wen­dell Carter and Gary Trent Jr., who some be­lieve could be a pack­age deal, along with top-100 play­ers Matt Cole­man, Kevin Knox and Mo­hamed Bamba. The Jay­hawks are push­ing hard for guards Collin Sex­ton and Trae Young and for­ward Billy Pre­ston.

The Wild­cats are also cov­et­ing Young, a 6-foot-2 guard from Ok­la­homa, while five-star prospects P.J. Wash­ing­ton and Nick Richards are ex­pected to sign let­ters of in­tent with Ken­tucky later this week.

Big Ten’s Best

Illi­nois coach John Groce has started what could be a make-or-break sea­son by land­ing a four-man class head­lined by St. Louis-area for­ward Jeremiah Til­mon — though it’s un­clear when he will sign his let­ter of in­tent. Michi­gan State hopes the com­bi­na­tion of Jaren Jackson and Xavier Till­man is only the start of an­other ta­lented class in East Lans­ing.

“They played to­gether on the same AAU team. They kind of fit to­gether,” Spar­tans coach Tom Izzo said of his two new power for­wards. “And we’re not done. Hope­fully we can add one, two, maybe even three more, but we have a great base, a base peo­ple want to play with guys like this.”

JULIE BEN­NETT — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Auburn’s men’s bas­ket­ball coach, Bruce Pearl, is cel­e­brat­ing a top-10 re­cruit­ing class in his sec­ond year with the Tigers.

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