After sitting out the 2012-13 season as a result of his transfer in from Virginia, Auburn guard K.T. Harrell hit the ground running offensively. With his 8.0 points per game as a freshman being the most productive of Harrell’s two seasons in Charlottesville, the 6-foot-4 guard scored 18.3 points per game in 2013-14. Harrell shot 43.4% from the field and 36.3% from beyond the arc last season, proving to be a solid scoring option alongside leading scorer Chris Denson.
Now that Denson’s out of eligibility there’s a void to be filled in the first season of the Bruce Pearl era. And while the addition of Niagara transfer Antoine Mason will certainly help from an offensive standpoint, as he averaged 25.6 points per game last season, it’s been Harrell who has stepped forward this summer.
Pearl called Montgomery native K.T. Harrell, who averaged 18.3 points for the Tigers last season, the team’s “best player and he’s our hardest worker,” during an appearance at the Public Safety Insurance Fund’s banquet at the RSA Activity Center Thursday morning.
“When your most valuable officer or person is also your hardest worker or your most dedicated, you’ve got a good team,” Pearl said to the audience of predominantly law enforcement officials. “K.T. leads by example both on and off the floor.”
Auburn certainly had its issues last season, as evidenced by their 14-16 overall record (6-12 SEC) which led to the dismissal of Tony Barbee. But there’s optimism, thanks to the arrival of Pearl and the addition of some talented newcomers. But Auburn’s fate will in large part be determined by the production of its leading returnee, with Harrell’s scoring and leadership abilities being key factors in 2014-15.
And by the sounds of it, Harrell has embraced his role under the new head coach.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.