Auburn guards Jared Harper and Bryce Brown were named second-team All-SEC Tuesday morning, but for the first time since the SEC created first and second teams in 1956, the regular season champion did not have a player on the SEC’s first-team.
“I am very pleased that Bryce Brown and Jared Harper were recognized amongst the top 16 players in our league,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “I’m disappointed that for the first time in 62 years, that there has never been a regular season champion that hasn’t had a player on the first-team. That has just been consistent with our whole year.”
Harper was a top-20 scorer in the SEC as he contributed 13.9 points per game, including 15.2 in league play alone.
He was the only player in the SEC to rank in the top 10 in scoring, assists, free throw percentage, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio in league games this season.
Harper also led the conference with 15 games of seven or more assists this season.
Brown ranked second on the team and eighth in the league with 16.4 points per game, including 16.8 in conference play. The junior led the SEC with 3.3 3-pointers per game.
Brown became the 36th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points and is the 18th player in the Auburn record books to tally 1,000 points prior to the end of their third season.
Sophomore forward Anfernee McLemore was also recognized by the SEC by being named to the All-Defensive team after leading the league with 73 blocks, good for fifth in Auburn single-season history.
A key absence from the all-conference teams was Auburn’s Mustapha Heron, who led the SEC champions averaging 16.6 points per game. The sophomore also grabbed 5.5 rebounds per game.
“As far as Mustapha was concerned, obviously, I’m very disappointed for him,” Pearl said. “He outscored 11 of the SEC honorees. They’re terrific players named, all of them are worthy and deserving. But, (Heron) out-rebounded nine of those guys. He out-won 12 of them.
“From a standpoint of that, I’m disappointed he couldn’t make it on to one of those teams as our leading scorer. Mustapha has sacrificed a lot so Jared could have more, so Bryce could have more, so Desean could have more, Chuma could have more. He’s done so willingly so we could have a chance to be a champion.”
Brown echoed his head coach, wishing that Heron could have joined him among the SEC’s honorees.
“What I was mostly disappointed in was that we didn’t see Mustapha’s name on there. That was really my biggest disappointment. I feel like he was snubbed the most.”
When the dust settles on Tuesday about who was honored and who was not, the two guards said the only thing that matters is what their team thinks of themselves.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone’s opinion about us really matters,” Harper said. “It’s what we think in this locker room that’s most important. I know I’ll take all my teammates over anybody in this conference or anybody in the country.
“It just gives us another reason to have a chip on our shoulder going into the SEC Tournament.”
“They just added fuel to the fire for Mustapha, for me and for Jared, and all my other teammates that were left off,” Brown said.
“They’re going to keep on doubting us. We are going to keep on going hard and keeping that chip on our shoulder.”
After celebrating the third SEC championship in school history over the weekend, Pearl said he is ready to turn the page and focus on his team’s trip to St. Louis for the SEC Tournament.
“One of the things I wanted to do yesterday by practicing, I still wanted them to celebrate yesterday,” Pearl said. “I wanted them to walk around proud. I wanted to relish the championship for another day. But I told them on Wednesday, that’s over. We are going to put that on the shelf.
“Now we will get back to the fact that we were picked where we were picked. The only thing you can do is win and change the perception of your program. We will go back to still being doubted.”
The Tigers will practice on Wednesday before taking to the air and traveling to St. Louis. The road to a tournament championship will be tough, Pearl said, but the Tigers are ready for the challenge.
“I think our bracket is tough,” Pearl said. “But it doesn’t really matter because you got to beat them all if you want to win the championship.”