There’s no denying the fact that Bruce Pearl has his work cut out for him at Auburn, where he’s been handed the keys to a program that has struggled mightily in recent years. But with the hiring of Pearl, who was highly successful at Tennessee before NCAA sanctions led to his dismissal, fans, administrators and former players are optimistic about the future.
One of those former players is Charles Barkley, who after three seasons at Auburn left as one of the greatest players in school history. During the men’s basketball reunion on Friday, Barkley expressed his approval of the hire made by athletic director Jay Jacobs.
On the message, which lasted roughly 10-12 seconds, were the kind of words of encouragement that still provide Pearl an emotional lift to this day:
“Bruce Pearl, this is Charles Barkley, you do not need to call me back. I’ve just been watching your teams play and I love the way you coach and I love the way your teams play.”
“I have it on an old cell phone,” Pearl said Friday evening from the Auburn Men’s Basketball Reunion at the Moore’s Mill Club in Auburn. “And there were times when we get down on ourselves (as coaches) and we lose confidence in what we do, and I’ve listened to that message a time or two. I’d never met him, I didn’t call him back because he said don’t call me back, but I kept that message.”
Much tends to be made about the players a new coach can bring in, and Pearl’s staff has gotten off to a solid start recruiting-wise with his show-cause not coming to its conclusion until late August. However it’s also important for the new head coach to establish a connection with the past, especially when it comes to the players who helped the program achieve success.
That’s the value of events such as Friday’s reunion, and if Auburn is to make the climb back to respectability and earn NCAA tournament bids the players of the past can help Pearl as he looks to sell his program to recruits and a fan base hungry for a winner.
One of the top points guards in the Class of 2017 has trimmed his list of potential collegiate destinations to six.
Trae Young, a consensus top-25 recruit, listed Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Oklahoma State and Kentucky as the schools he is considering as he readies to begin his senior year of high school.
The list of the 6-foot-2 point guard is largely provincial as it includes Oklahoma, whose campus is just minutes away from Young’s Norman North High School, and fellow in-state school Oklahoma. Another pair of Big 12 schools make the list in powerhouse Kansas and the Red Raiders, whose first-year coach, Chris Beard, has spent the bulk of his career working in Texas. Texas Tech is also Young’s father’s alma mater. Washington has been on a role sending its players to the pros and recently received the commitment of top-five 2017 recruit Michael Porter, Jr.
Kentucky, of course, needs no explanation as to its attractiveness to high-level players.
Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.
A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.
“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”
Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.
A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017
The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.
Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training
Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.
You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:
“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”
Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”
Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”