After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.
Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.
The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.
Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.
Auburn junior point guard Kareem Canty, the team’s leader in both points and assists, has missed the Tigers’ last two games as a result of a suspension handed down by head coach Bruce Pearl for a violation of team rules. Thursday night Canty announced via Twitter that he will be turning pro, ending his Auburn career with less than one full season of play.
In 21 games this season Canty averaged 18.3 points and 5.3 assists per contest, shooting 40.1 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from three. Given Auburn’s lack of perimeter depth Canty had ample opportunities to score from the point guard position, but he struggled in the four games following standout performances in wins over Kentucky and Alabama.
Auburn’s lost six straight since beating the Crimson Tide, most recently falling 71-45 at Tennessee Tuesday night. Without Canty, Bruce Pearl called upon TJ Lang and Bryce Brown as the perimeter starters in that game with Patrick Keim and New Williams playing a combined 33 minutes off the bench. They’ll continue to see those minutes moving forward.
As for next season, Auburn brings in four-star point guard Jared Harper and currently injured point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen will be available as well.
Canty began his college career at Marshall, playing the 2013-14 season for the Thundering Herd before deciding to transfer. Canty committed to Auburn in mid-April of 2014, only to change his mind in favor of USF before making the switch back to Auburn.
Canty’s name wasn’t showing up in early draft projections, and making this decision while in the midst of a suspension likely won’t help matters when it comes to getting selected.
Prior to Auburn’s game at Georgia Saturday evening, head coach Bruce Pearl announced that leading scorer and starting point guard Kareem Canty has been suspended indefinitely.
Canty’s currently averaging 18.3 points per game and his abilities as a scorer and distributor have been key for the Tigers offensively. When Canty returns to the court remains to be seen, with Pearl noting that Canty may be able to return before the end of the season.
“Kareem has had some strong moments for our team this season,” Pearl said. “He has demonstrated that at the highest level of competition, he can win his matchup.
“However, his effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable. He will step away from the team for a while and may return later in the season. He is suspended indefinitely.”
According to the release Cinmeon Bowers will move into the starting lineup for Auburn, which is now 9-13 overall and 3-7 in SEC play. Auburn’s lost five straight and eight of their last ten games after losing by ten at Georgia Saturday night.
Without him more minutes are available to freshman New Williams, who played 22 minutes against Georgia. Bryce Brown started and played 18 minutes, with Devin Waddell playing 12 minutes off the bench.
To say that Auburn’s recruiting has picked up under second-year head coach Bruce Pearl would be a serious understatement. Since Pearl’s taken over the once moribund program has been in the running for some highly regarded prospects, and they’ve landed their fair share too.
Thursday afternoon Auburn received its second verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star point guard Davion Mitchell announced that he’ll be a Tiger. News of Mitchell’s commitment was first reported by Rivals.com.
Mitchell joins five-star big man Austin Wiley in Auburn’s 2017 class to date, and like Wiley he’s a Georgia native. That’s a state the Auburn staff’s worked hard to recruit, with two of their three 2016 commitments being Georgia natives after getting just one (guard Bryce Brown) in their 2015 class.
The 6-foot-1 Mitchell plays a position where Auburn needed additional depth for the future, with Tahj Shamsid-Deen being a junior and verbal commit Jared Harper (2016) being the options in line for the point guard position.
Mitchell, who attends Liberty County HS in Hinesville, Georgia, played his grassroots basketball for the Georgia Stars program this summer. Mitchell averaged 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in the 16U division of the Nike EYBL circuit, shooting nearly 55 percent from the field.
An athletic point guard with the handle needed to attack defenses off the dribble, it will be interesting to see what kind of progress Mitchell can make in his final two high school seasons before enrolling at Auburn.
Auburn continues to build momentum on the recruiting trail as head coach Bruce Pearl and the Tigers secured a commitment from five-star Class of 2017 center Austin Wiley.
The 6-foot-10 Wiley made his announcement on Twitter and he’s regarded as the No. 20 overall prospect in the 2017 class.
Wiley represents the first commitment for Auburn in the Class of 2017 and he’s an important piece. It’s nice for the Tigers to keep a talented in-state prospect from Birmingham at home, but he’s also a center, which is a position that Auburn has yet to recruit among its four Class of 2016 commitments.
With Pearl landing five-star guard Mustapha Heron in 2016 and now five-star center Austin Wiley in 2017, it represents that he’s resonating with elite talent and getting them to buy into his vision for the future.
Auburn deserves a lot of credit for recruiting Wiley hard while he’s been hurt. The junior had two surgeries the last few months to clean up his left knee around the patellar tendon before fixing a partial tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee. Both of Wiley’s parents went to Auburn, however, and they were always considered one of the frontrunners.
It appears Trayvon Reed will not be on the Auburn roster to begin the season for the second straight year.
According to a report from Matthew Stevens of the Montgomery Advertiser on Friday evening, Reed has not enrolled in classes this semester for “personal reasons” but is expected to re-enroll for the spring.
Reed, a top-100 recruit in the Class of 2014, began his college career with a brief stint at Maryland. He was dismissed from the team following a July 2014 arrest. He committed to Bruce Pearl and Auburn the next month, but wasn’t eligible to play until the second semester. In 23 appearances, the 7-foot-2 center averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game.
An Auburn spokesperson told the Montgomery Advertiser that there is a possibility that Reed redshirts this season to preserve a full year of eligibility.
Auburn should make strides in Pearl’s second year, but it’s still early in the rebuilding process. Top rebounder Cinmeon Bowers returns and will be joined by Providence graduate transfer Tyler Harris and four-star forwards Danjel Purifoy and Horace Spencer on the frontline. Shooting guard T.J. Dunans, another f0ur-star recruit in Pearl’s first recruiting class, joins the back court along with Marshall transfer Kareem Canty.
Auburn begins the 2015-16 season at home against UAB on Nov. 13.