Coach Bruce Pearl’s returning basketball players and the five newcomers for Auburn’s 2020-21 roster started on-campus conditioning workouts this week after being exiled from campus since March. The Tigers and other college basketball teams are still awaiting word on when they can begin full squad practices.
In recent years, the Tigers have gotten a lot done in their summer team practices, which helps explain good starts to the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons as well as the 15-0 start to the 2019-20 schedule.
The sooner this year’s rebuilding project can get started with full squad workouts the better, considering that all five starters must be replaced as well as the top performer off the bench.
The numbers show the Tigers have major work to do with the top returning scorer, guard Devan Cambridge, averaging just 4.2 points per game last season as a freshman for a team that posted a 25-6 record.
Allen Flanigan, another sophomore, is the top returning rebounder with his average of 2.7 per game.
Number two on scoring list of returning players is junior guard Jamal Johnson at 3.2 points per game followed by Flanigan at 3.2 and sophomore Jaylin Williams at 2.4.
It makes sense that the Tigers are going to need plenty of help from their Top-10 ranked signee class in addition to having last season’s backups step into much larger roles as the Tigers take on the 2020-21 schedule.
From the notebook:
• The football Tigers are ranked 13th in an early preseason poll conducted by 247Sports. Ohio State is the pick to win the national title with Clemson at No. 2. Alabama heads the list of seven SEC teams in the poll at No. 3 with Georgia fourth, Florida sixth, defending national champion LSU ninth, Texas A&M 12th and Tennessee at No. 22.
• Auburn has a late addition to its 2020 football recruiting class with 6-5, 230-pound quarterback Grant Loy making the move as a graduate transfer from Bowling Green. Loy, who started seven games last season, should give the Tigers an experienced backup in case sophomore Bo Nix is injured.
• For a third-straight season since Butch Thompson became Auburn’s head coach, one of his players was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft. Tanner Burns was chosen by the Cleveland Indians as the No. 36 overall pick. That is the fourth highest draft spot for an Auburn pitcher behind Casey Mize (No. 1 in 2018), Gregg Olson (No. 4 in 1988) and Chris Bootcheck (No. 20 in 2000).
The only other player on Auburn’s 2020 roster who was selected in the 2020 draft that was shortened from 40 to five rounds was lefty pitcher Bailey Horn, who was chosen in the fifth round (No. 142 overall) by the Chicago White Sox.
The Tigers also lost shortstop signee Werner Blakely, a fourth round pick of the Los Angeles Angels, but overall the draft could have done more damage to Auburn’s 2021 roster.
• AU senior right-handed pitcher Ryan Watson signed a free agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles. The former Auburn High baseball star was off to a good start when the 2020 season was canceled. In five appearances, he allowed just one run and four hits in 7 1/3 innings.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter