This year’s Auburn basketball team will look different than last. The Tigers lost six players at the end of the season, including starting point guard J’Von McCormick.
One solution at the point could be a guy who wasn’t originally recruited to play it at all, Justin Powell.
The 6-foot-6 guard from Kentucky was rated as the third-best player in the state, according to 247Sports player composite rankings.
Powell averaged 24.7 points per game during his senior year before suffering a groin injury. Head coach Bruce Pearl thinks that Powell could have potentially competed to be Mr. Basketball in Kentucky before his injury.
According to Pearl, Powell is now completely “good to go” and is developing well heading into the season.
“He’s got more ball-handling, decision-making, play-making, reads-out-of-ball-screen ability than I thought he did,” Pearl said. “He’s obviously a terrific shooter. He’s got a really high basketball IQ.”
Powell played as a combo-guard in high school, playing mostly shooting guard, but has experience at the point position.
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“We are allowing him to compete with Sharife Cooper and Tyrell Jones and maybe even another player or two,” Pearl said.
However, most Auburn fans are clamoring to see the aforementioned Cooper at point guard.
At the time of signing, Cooper was Auburn’s highest-rated basketball commitment ever, an achievement that power forward Jabari Smith now holds after committing to the Tigers on Oct. 9.
In his senior season, Cooper was named a McDonald’s All-American and is just one of three Auburn players in program history to achieve that honor.
Cooper, listed at 6-foot-1, is a small but extremely agile guard. He led McEachern High School to two straight Final Four’s and left as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Cooper has put on about 20 pounds since arriving at Auburn. His size, weight and play style immediately draw parallels to one of Auburn’s greats in Jared Harper.
“He is a self-made player; he is a grinder; he is a gym rat,” Pearl said. “Very much like Jared Harper did, he is working hard to grow that body, and he looks different than he did in high school, even right now. So now he is about 6-1, 180 lbs. He is a guy that has worked really hard in the gym, in the weight room, working on his game.”
Harper was Auburn’s starting point guard during the school’s run to the Final Four and was listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds during his final season at Auburn. While fans are excited to see what Cooper can do, he’s not at Harper’s level, yet.
“He is ahead of Jared as a freshman, but he is not Jared Harper, yet,” Pearl said. “One of the things he does well is he is a better interior passer than Jared, and he can score at the rim, making tough two’s better than Jared.”
Whether it be Cooper, Powell or incumbent Tyrell Jones at point guard, a young Tiger will be leading the charge. 10 underclassmen make up the roster, with six rotational spots up for grabs. There is no doubt that Cooper and Powell will have to contribute early and hard in their budding collegiate careers.
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