Bruce Pearl has shown the ability to attract top talent consistently since arriving on the Plains. There’s no denying it.
Pearl reined in the first 5-star in the program’s history with the signing of Mustapha Heron in 2016, and just this signing period has added 5-star guard Sharife Cooper, who is the Tigers’ highest-rated prospect to date according to the 247Sports, to headline his 2020 class.
And, that’s without mentioning highly-rated 4-star talents like Isaac Okoro, Austin Wiley and Chuma Okeke who also rank in the Tigers’ top-10 of all-time recruits and potentially have NBA careers ahead of them.
And in just a matter of days, Pearl has the chance to go one step more and land a program-defining class that would put Auburn on the map in a way that it has never been before.
The Tigers’ 2020 class is already inside the top 20 of 247Sports’ Composite Rankings, slotted at No. 19 with signees Chris Moore, Justin Powell and the aforementioned Cooper.
Three more major targets remain in 5-star shooting guard Jalen Green, ESPN’s No. 1 high school prospect in the class of 2020, 5-star small forward Greg Brown and 4-star power forward J.T. Thor.
All three will have made their decisions by the end of the month.
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J.T. THOR: PF | 6-10 | 195 lbs.
Thor will lead off and announce his decision between Auburn and Oklahoma State on Sunday, April 12. The 6-foot-10, Norcross, Georgia native has been compared to a long, lean big man like Wenyen Gabriel of Kentucky just a few years prior. Thor is raw, athletic and can stretch the floor much like Gabriel. And obviously the size is a plus for Auburn who will be losing seniors Wiley and McLemore down low, but Thor will need to beef up and get stronger to be more effective in the paint and in traffic.
Nationally, the consensus is that he will choose Oklahoma State but Auburn’s staff still remains confident and the fact that Thor’s high school is just two hours away from Auburn’s campus doesn’t hurt.
JALEN GREEN: SG | 6-5 | 170 lbs.
Green will be next, announcing today that he will make his decision on Friday, April 17, the first day of the signing period. This is the big one, for obvious reasons and with all of the anticipation that has come with Green’s recruitment over the past year. The 5-star is expected to sign with either Memphis or Auburn, with both schools and coaching staffs feeling confident in its chances. Green is one of the purest scorers we’ve seen in the last few years and is a future NBA lottery pick, so the magnitude of his signing doesn’t need to be explained any further.
This one is a toss-up with how fluid this process has been for Green, and also when you consider he still has the option to pursue a professional career in the NBA's G League or overseas. Memphis was the early favorite because of Green’s relationship with head coach Penny Hardaway as well as former NBA forward and assistant Mike Miller, but Auburn has turned it on the last few months emerging as a slight leader. It's also a huge factor that Cooper and Green are friends that might have an interest in playing together at the collegiate level.
GREG BROWN: SF | 6-8 | 190 lbs.
Brown would be the final piece, with his announcement set for Friday, April 24.
The Austin, Texas product will be deciding between Memphis, Texas and Auburn. Brown isn’t as polished of a 5-star prospect as Green, but then again, nearly no one is. Brown is a freak athlete and has the potential and frame to be a future lottery pick if he fills out and if his outside shot can continue to improve.
Memphis was also a frontrunner for a time with Brown but seems to have taken a back seat to in-state Texas as well as Auburn who has been growing in confidence in regards to its chances of landing the 5-star forward to cap of its 2020 class with a splash. The Tigers are hanging around but this one has been leaning towards Texas in the last few weeks so I wouldn't be shocked if he chooses to stay close to home.
Just the idea of having one of these talents on campus for a visit was unheard of before the days of Pearl. Now, Auburn fans are coming to the pleasant realization that this could become the new reality.
Landing just one of these three would be major for Pearl and his staff to team up with Cooper, arguably the nation’s top point guard in the 2020 class.
Landing two or even all three could change the program, change the culture and pave the way for much, much more.
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