I would never have guessed this. Not in a million years.
A school more known for their football than anything else — Auburn — now has the number one 2017 recruiting class in the NATION.
Yes, the NATION.
This ranking came to fruition in July, but head coach Bruce Pearl is piling up the talent with the commitment of four-star 2017 small forward Chuma Okeke on Sunday.
— Verbal Commits (@VerbalCommits) July 24, 2016
Okeke’s stock has been rising this spring/summer as he has received offers from major schools like Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Florida State. The 6’8″, 221 pound forward is ranked 57th in ESPN’s top 100 and he is the 9th ranked player in the state of Georgia.
The Atlanta native is long and athletic, and possesses the scoring instincts to be an eventual starter on the wing for the Tigers. Okeke is impressive in transition, as he slashes and scores in the mid-range.
While Okeke is still working defensively, his main weaknesses include his lack of strength and his non-consistent three point shot.
With solid physical tools, Okeke can eventually mold into a reliable rebounder and a player who can guard multiple positions on the defensive end.
Okeke will be a key piece to the 2017 recruiting class, but the Tigers also have commitments from five-star big Austin Wiley and one of the top point guards in the class in Davion Mitchell.
Wiley, who is ranked 19th in ESPN’s top 100, is a big physical paint presence who can score around the rim, block shots on defense, and rebound on both ends of the floor. He has good mobility for his size and is powerful when sealing opposing bigs in transition.
At 6’9″, 250, the Alabama native has decent size, a strong frame, great length and the ability to be a effective screen setter on the perimeter.
Mitchell is ranked 50th in ESPN’s top 100 because of his strength, quickness, athleticism, and tight handles. He is crafty finisher in the paint, who needs to work on the consistency of his jump shot. The Georgia native can also be a force in transition and is a developing player in pick-and-roll situations.
Those two talents will go along with a solid core that the Tigers have been building over the last two years. It consists of 2015 athletic big Horace Spencer, rising sophomore Danjel Purifoy, five-star 2016 recruit Mustapha Heron, four-star 2017 point guard Jared Harper and four-star 2016 power forward Anfernee McLemore.
Pearl was hired at Auburn to make the basketball program relevant nationally. He is an excellent recruiter, but will soon have to develop his talent into victories on the court.
Auburn was 11-20 overall last year and finished just 5-13 in conference play. They are expected to once again be at the bottom of the SEC in 2016-17.
However, it is obvious that Auburn is building a nice core group of players that could compete atop the conference for years to come.
Rick Barnes Says He Would Have Left Tennessee if UCLA Paid Buyout
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes could have been the next head coach for UCLA, instead of Mick Cronin, if only the Bruins were willing to open up their wallets.
Barnes says that if UCLA would have promised to pay Barnes’ $5 million buyout, he would have left Tennessee to take the job at UCLA.
“I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes said (h/t ESPN). “I’ve said that to people before. I really felt at that time that’s what would happen.”
Barnes was honest and open with his decision process during the news conference, saying that he struggled with making a final decision due to financial matters.
Barnes has since agreed to a new deal with Tennessee that will pay him $4 million per year before increasing to a $6 million annual sum by the end of the contract and provide more cash for his assistants.
“I’m supposed to be at Tennessee,” Barnes said. “And it’s really above and beyond the basketball program. I’m in love with this community. I’m in love with this state. I just think we got a lot of great things going on in this town.”
“A lot of praying went into it, I can tell you that,” Barnes said. “There was a lot going on. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. Bottom line is we couldn’t work it out with the buyout.”
Barnes also informed UCLA that he would not depart Knoxville without talking to athletic director Phillip Fulmer and others in the community.
I told them point blank, ‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with my team,'” Barnes said. “‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with people here that have been really good to me.’ … I said, ‘You just can’t say send a plane tomorrow and we’re leaving. I’m going to make sure this is done the right way.'”
“There was one time in my mind I truly felt that’s what would happen,” Barnes said about potentially taking the UCLA offer. “It got to that point where I felt like my prayers had been answered.”
The Madness is Underway
As we inch closer to selection Sunday, many conference tournaments are underway finding teams who will automatically make the NCAA Men’s basketball. Here are the teams that currently in the tournament:
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big South: Gardner–Webb
Horizon: Northern Kentucky
Missouri Valley: Bradley
MEC: Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit League: North Dakota State
Summit League: Saint Marry’s
Out of the 32 conferences with automatic bids in the tournament, 12 of them have been clinched. All the until selection Sunday the remaining 20 conferences will have their tickets punched. Who will that be? Stay tuned!
Tennessee Basketball Ranked 4th In (Early) Preseason Top 25
A school built on football lure now has a thriving basketball team to get behind. In a early CBS basketball poll, the Volunteer squad is ranked 4th in the preseason. This should bring relief to a fan base whose struggled with a lackluster football team in recent years.
Under Coach Rick Barnes (SEC Coach of the year 2017) the Vols went 26-9 last year, won a share of the regular season SEC title and reached the final of the SEC tournament. Tennessee should return most of their pivotal pieces for the 2018-19 season.
Admiral Schofield (2017-2018 ALL SEC second teamer) who tested the NBA waters has returned for his senior year to play along side Grant Williams (SEC player of the year) and Kyle Alexander. If they can stay healthy along with the supporting cast, this team has a legitimate chance to reach the final four.
According to Andy Katz, “Tennessee is the team to beat in the SEC this year,” and did I mention Coach Barnes recruiting is nothing to take lightly. Recently committed 5 star combo guard, Josiah James added his name to the class of 2019 and pushed the Vols recruiting into the top 10 nationally.
Although it’s too early to tell how this season will play out its certain the hype is warranted and reaching heights it hasn’t seen since the Bruce Pearl era.
Could it be!? Tennessee – a basketball school?
Follow the journey when the Volunteers tip off against Louisiana Lafayette on November 9th.
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