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A spirit that is not afraid

How Auburn basketball's 2019 class could fit in next season

<p>Isaac Okoro 4) via FIBA.</p>

Isaac Okoro 4) via FIBA.

After its first Final Four run in program history, next year’s Auburn basketball team could look very different. 

Seniors Horace Spencer, Malik Dunbar, and starting shooting guard Bryce Brown will all graduate after this season. Additionally, juniors Austin Wiley and sophomore Chuma Okeke could both test the NBA draft waters. The Tigers' three-year starter at point guard, Jared Harper, submitted his name into the draft process last week, while junior role player Danjel Purifoy announced at the end of the regular season that he will return for 2019-20.

This does not, by any means, mean that all of them, if any, will get drafted or hire agents, but Pearl always encourages his players to test the process and see what they come back with. As of now, Okeke is the only one projected to get taken, but don’t be surprised if most of them get a look.

With that being said, here’s a look at the five 2019 Auburn basketball signees and how they could fit in next season for Pearl.

AUBURN 2019 RECRUITING CLASS RANKINGS (according to 247 sports):

· National rank: 16

· SEC rank: 4

· Avg. rating: 0.9233

Isaac Okoro - SF (4-star)

6’5” | 200 lbs. | Powder Springs, Ga.

Okoro is the gem of Bruce Pearl’s 2019 recruiting class. Pearl has already proven that he can go into neighboring states and get highly sought-after talent, and this year, he bagged the No. 2 player in the state of Georgia with the signing of Isaac Okoro. 

Okoro, who plays at McEachern, is the No .7 small forward in the class and the No. 37 overall prospect for 2019. Okoro picked Auburn over other offers of Virginia, Oregon and Florida, just to name a few.

Where he fits in: Okoro is an all-around athlete with good size and frame for a prospect that will spend most of his time on the wing in college. At 6-foot-5, Okoro is a long, skilled defender and has the potential to grow into even more, with the capability to guard almost any position on the court. 

For Pearl’s offense, Okoro will shine most in the transition offense in somewhat of a slasher and playmaking role. He still needs to improve his shot from the 3-point line, considering how dependent the Tigers’ offense is on converting from deep.

Tyrell Jones - G (4-star)

6’1” | 170 lbs. | Orlando, Fla.

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With Davion Mitchell transferring to Baylor last season, Pearl is bringing in Jones as the next combo guard to compete for a starting role if Harper decides to leave. The West Oaks Academy product is the No. 14 player in Florida and the No. 19 combo guard in the country. Jones committed to Auburn over Ole Miss and Louisville.

Where he fits in: Jones’ nickname is “Turbo," and for good reason. When he can get out in transition, Jones is one of the fastest guards with the ball in his hands from baseline to baseline, which is why Pearl recruited him so heavily. 

Other than his pure speed and athleticism, Jones ball handling is what sets him apart, and although he is not a true point guard yet, the court vision and passing potential is there. He can get to the basket and create plays at will but needs to improve his shot from mid-range, as well as from beyond the arc.

Jaylin Williams - PF (4-star)

6’7” | 205 lbs. | Nahunta, Ga.

Williams is the second top-5 player from the state of Georgia that Pearl has brought across state lines to Auburn. He is the No. 5 player in the state and the No. 21 power forward nationally. The Brantley County prospect signed with Auburn over other notable SEC offers of Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State.

Where he fits in: Williams is long, athletic and surprisingly smooth and agile for a left-handed power forward. Apart from his skillset, most scouts say he is revered for his toughness and never-ending motor on the court. Williams plays on the blocks and at the elbow on offense mostly but can stretch the floor and knock down shots from the perimeter, which could be a matchup nightmare for teams at the next level. 

He is a relentless rebounder and could be dominant on both ends if he bulks up some more at Auburn.

Babatunde Akingbola - C (3-star)

6’8” | 220 lbs. | Powder Springs, Ga.

Akingbola is another Georgia product, as well as the high school teammate of Isaac Okoro. Pearl’s teams have been notably undersized the past few seasons and he is hoping Akingbola can bring some more stability, whether that be at the forward or center position. 

He is listed at center, but at 6-foot-8, seems more fitted for the power forward position in college. Akingbola is the No. 17 prospect from Georgia and No. 46 center in the country. He chose Auburn over Georgia Tech, Memphis and N.C. State.

Where he fits in: Akingbola will make the biggest difference for Bruce Pearl on the defensive side of the ball. At 6-foot-8, although he is undersized at the center position, he makes up for it with his wingspan, athleticism, and blocking ability. The McEachern product is one the better rim protectors in the class, and Pearl is hoping he can come in to replace upperclassmen Spencer, Wiley and Anfernee McLemore whenever they are all gone. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Akingbola can bring energy, rebounding, and should be able to run the floor with effectiveness. Other than that, he will need to put on some muscle and work on his low-post moves, as well as his touch if he wants to be a starter for Pearl in the future.

Allen Flanigan - SF (3-star)

6’5” | 200 lbs. | Little Rock, AR

Flanigan, son of Auburn assistant coach Wes Flanigan, followed in his father’s footsteps when he signed with the Tigers in November. He is the second small forward of the class and the No. 4 player in the state of Arkansas. The Parkview product and No. 64 small forward in the country chose Auburn over South Florida.

Where he fits in: With wings like Brown, Dunbar, Doughty and Purifoy all leaving in the coming years, Pearl is hoping Okoro and Flanigan can fill in and contribute immediately. 

Flanigan, although he isn’t as highly rated as Okoro, possesses much of the same athleticism and ability to finish at the rim. He has the length and toughness to start and be a two-way player, scoring the ball at a consistent rate on offense, as well as defending multiple positions on defense. 

Like Okoro, if his jump shot can improve, he could be a dangerous player for Pearl in the years to come

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