Three former Tigers balled out in their NBA G-League season openers on Friday night, headlined by Jared Harper and JT Thor each dropping 30+ points in a head-to-head matchup to start what should be an entertaining basketball season for Auburn and pro fans alike.
It was Thor’s and Sharife Cooper’s first professional game in the G-League, both second round picks out Auburn last season.
One of last year’s top scorers in the G-League set a similar tone for the start of the 2021 season on an entirely different team, one much closer to home for the Atlanta native.
Birmingham’s first professional basketball team got out to a fiery start to its first season with a win over the Greensboro Storm, led at the point by former Auburn guard Jared Harper scoring 35 points and assisting on six more baskets.
Harper shot an impressive 57.1% from the floor with four made 3-pointers to lead the Squadron to their first win, and Alabama’s first statewide NBA victory.
The Squadron is the New Orlean Pelican’s G-League affiliate team based out of Birmingham, Alabama. It is the state’s first ever professional basketball team.
Harper wasn’t the only former Auburn player putting on an impressive showing on the court in Greensboro on Friday.
34 of the Swarm’s 117 points came at the hands of the lanky 19-year-old and Alaska native, JT Thor.
Thor dropped the hammer on Friday with 34 points and 12 rebounds, stroking a smooth shot from the outer arc for four out of seven 3-pointers (57.1%) and 63.6% shooting in total on 14 out of 22 shots.
Though he couldn’t lead his team to a win, Thor made quick use of his height advantage and wingspan on the floor to easily grab 12 boards on top of his scoring runs, something for both Tiger and Swarm fans to be excited about in his young career.
The Greensboro Swarm is the G-League affiliate team with the Charlotte Hornets. Thor currently has a two-way contract with both the Hornets and the Swarm, as most new draftees are pushed toward G-League play to grow their game before the start of the bulk of the regular NBA season.
Former Alabama guard John Petty Jr. joins Harper on the Squadron, putting together a front-court duo of former Auburn and Alabama players for Birmingham. A fitting lineup for the proximity and history between the two schools and the Iron City.
Petty had six steals, six rebounds and seven points in his NBA debut after leaving last year’s draft day without hearing his name called. His +/- of +19 versus Greensboro was the second highest on the team.
Sharife Cooper repped for the A‘s G-League affiliate team, the College Park Skywawks, for the first time on Friday night in the Skyhawks’ loss to the Maine Celtics.
The former McDonald‘s All-American shot five for 11 threes and scored a total 23 points on 32 minutes of action. His signature step-back three and hang-in-the-air lay up were on full display as he led the Skyhawks scoring in the first half.
Cooper also had the most turnovers on the team, with four, a part of his play that he will will look to improve in G-Leage play that he also struggled with in his one season on the Plains.
Thor and Harper will be back at it again on Saturday in a head-to-head, Auburn-on-Auburn matchup at 6 p.m. CST, as Greensboro hosts the Squadron for the second of a two-match series.
A link to the match can be found here on the G-League’s official website. https://gleague.nba.com/games/20211106/BIRGBO/
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Larry is a senior studying journalism with a minor in sociology. He is from Enterprise, Alabama and is in his third year with The Auburn Plainsman.