Although the current restrictions on recruiting have certainly cramped the style of Auburn’s Bruce Pearl and his staff, as well as other college basketball coaches around the country, three strong seasons in a row have helped put the Tigers in the mix with plenty of good prospects.
Three of the top five prospects for the 2021 class, according to the new 247Sports ranking, are considering Auburn. Prior to Pearl’s arrival, that type of interest in playing for the Tigers would have not happened.
However, a regular season SEC championship in 2018, an SEC Tournament title in 2019 along with a run to the Final Four followed by another strong performance this past season have bumped up Auburn’s stock considerably with bluechip prospects.
Included in the top five prospects with an interest in the Tigers this year are the No. 1 ranked recruit, Jonathan Kuminga, and No. 5 ranked recruit, Jabari Smith.
Kuminga, who was born in the Congo, has been in the United States since he was 13 years old. He is attending The Patrick School in Elizabeth, N.J., where he averaged 16.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists last season.
The 6-8 forward has a list of choices that includes Auburn, Duke, Kentucky and Texas Tech as his collegiate options for either the 2021 class or re-classifying and enrolling as a class of 2020 prospect. A third option is skipping college basketball and going straight to pro hoops.
Smith, a 6-10 power forward from Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Ga., is a prospect the Tigers probably have a better chance to sign than Kuminga.
Smith is looking at mostly SEC teams with Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee on his favorites list along with Georgia Tech of the ACC.
Smith was on the Auburn campus just weeks before the 2019-20 season was shut down in March, and he watched the Tigers improve their record to 23-4 with the first of two victories over the Tennessee Vols last season. Smith, who notes that he is in no rush to make a decision, says to expect the Tigers to be under strong consideration all the way until he decides on a college.
The third recruit on 247’s top five list with an interest in the Tigers is 7-0, 190- pound center Chet Holmgren from Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis. Gonzaga, where he took an official visit last year, hometown Minnesota, Purdue and Texas look to be the favorites, but it is interesting that an out-of-region prospect with no apparent connection to the program is interested in Auburn.
Closer to home, the Tigers are in the mix for 6-2 guard J.D. Davison, who led Calhoun High to the 2020 Alabama Class 2A state championship. He is rated as the No. 13 prospect in the 2021 class and whoever signs Davison will be getting a player with point guard skills and plenty of scoring punch.
Although college programs haven’t been able to have on-campus camps for prospects or other visits due to restrictions in place because of the Covid-19 virus, Davison has made multiple trips to AU for camps and games the past couple of years and has a good feel for the program.
The Tigers are in the mix with numerous other prospects, but unless there is a lot of attrition from players currently on the roster there won’t be room to bring in a big 2021 class with the Tigers adding five scholarship players to the roster this year.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter