The 2020 recruiting class for Bruce Pearl and his staff has been called the best of his tenure by many and the best recruiting class in program history by others. The class was ranked fifth in the SEC and ninth nationally, according to 247Sports.
Leading that talented group is star point guard Sharife Cooper, Auburn’s second highest-rated recruit ever, according to 247Sports. While this class is a milestone for Bruce Pearl in building up the Auburn basketball program, overall, the entire recruiting cycle is worth mentioning.
When Bruce Pearl was hired as the 20th coach in program history, there was a sense of optimism surrounding the program that had been missing for the previous decade as the Tigers struggled.
In the 11 years since their last NCAA Tournament appearance in the 2002 season, the Tigers posted only two winning seasons during that span and had a 159-182 overall record. A lone bright spot came in 2008 when Jeff Lebo led the Tigers to a 24-12 record, but it did not last since Lebo was gone a year later.
When Pearl arrived, the expectations for the former Tennessee coach were not very high despite his success in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Auburn basketball program needed consistency at the head coaching position and someone to lead the team in a positive direction.
Pearl brought that and more with him to Auburn as he won an SEC Championship, SEC Tournament Championship, and made the Final Four for the first time in program history.
This past season saw Pearl put Auburn in position for its third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The challenge for any coach that has this type of success is to find a way to maintain the momentum and upward trajectory for their program.
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Many teams like UConn and George Mason have made incredible runs in the NCAA Tournament but failed to parlay that short-term success into long-term.
The 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes for Auburn are one way for Pearl to ensure that his program continues to grow and experience success. What happened during this recruiting cycle says more about the trajectory of the Auburn basketball program.
Jalen Green was the second-ranked prospect in the country according to 247Sports, and Greg Brown was the eighth-ranked player in the country according to 247Sports. Auburn missed out on both top 10 players but remained in contention for them until the end of their recruitments.
While fans could look at the recruitments of Jalen Green and Greg Brown as missed opportunities and move on, there is something to be said about Auburn having a legitimate chance at those two players.
This recruiting cycle showcases how far Pearl has brought the Auburn program. Bringing in a class ranked ninth in the entire country while also having a chance to sign two of the country's best prospects is an important milestone because it shows that Pearl has parlayed on the court success into off the court success.
Only a year later, Pearl has outdone himself yet again, signing Jabari Smith and Trey Alexander.
Smith is the highest-rated recruit Auburn has ever signed, currently ranked fifth in the country by 247Sports, while Alexander is a highly-rated 4-star guard.
The 2020 recruiting class is one of the best Auburn has ever had, and their effect on the program has already been felt despite them not stepping on the floor yet.
In rebuilding a basketball program, some moments are significant for a coach who seeks to build a consistent program. The 2020 recruiting cycle could be one of the more important in Auburn basketball history.
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