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If this happens, 2018-2019: Final Four run

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They All Come Back

Good chance it happens.

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As the deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA Draft draws closer, Bruce Pearl believes the chances of Austin Wiley, Mustapha Heron, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper each returning to Auburn increase.

Players have until May 30 to withdraw from the NBA Draft and maintain their college eligibility, so Auburn will know a lot more about its 2018-19 roster in nine days.

"They're all going to consider coming back. There's a chance they could all come back; but that's been the case from the very beginning," Pearl said before his annual BP Fore the Children Golf Classic at the Willow Point Golf and Country Club in Alexander City on Monday. "I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think the chance improves. But it would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in."

None of Auburn's players has signed with an agent and Wiley was the only one to be invited to last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. While Wiley tested well in some areas, he is still not considered a first-round pick.

The 6-foot-8.25 Wiley was the ninth tallest center at the Combine with a five percent body fat that ranked best among centers and tied for 10th overall. He ran the shuttle in 3.31 seconds (third among centers), had a 33.5-inch max vertical (third among centers), 28-inch standing vertical (fourth among centers), a 9-foot-3 standing reach (fourth among centers) and 7-foot-5 wingspan (tied for fourth among centers).

Pearl said Heron has worked out for the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers and will work out with the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz this week while Brown and Harper each worked out for the Atlanta Hawks.

Pearl believes the NBA's increased support of the G League has made players want to return to college if they're not projected to go in the first round because second-rounders and undrafted free agents are more likely not to play in the NBA for significant time if at all.

"I think a few years ago a mid-second-round pick, even though it wasn't guaranteed, you had a better chance of seeing the floor at some point," Pearl said. "Now they'll send you right to the G League. I don't think anybody would prefer that necessarily at age 18, 19 or 20 to being in college and playing against our competition and continuing to train."

Managing the uncertainty of the roster this offseason has been a challenge for Pearl and his staff, who are going through their own contract negotiations.

Pearl admitted recruiting has been a challenge as prospective players, particularly transfers, weigh whether they'd be behind established starters or not.

"My job is to try to help those guys get their degrees and to have an opportunity to play professional basketball," Pearl said. "You have to - and it's been the case all spring long - focus on the individual. It's not time to worry about the team; it's time to worry about them and what they're doing, help them realize those individual goals. If we get the kind of information that tells us it's in their best interest to come back as an individual, they'll come back and then we'll build a team.

"Does it make recruiting difficult? Absolutely. I mean who's coming in when Austin might come back? Who's coming in when Mustapha might come back? That's OK. We knew that. So therefore we had Malik (Dunbar) and Samir (Doughty) as juniors and seniors. We have players in the front line that are ready to be able to assume a greater role, should Austin stay in the draft."

 

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Auburn University Men's Basketball

Pearl: ‘There’s a chance’ all 4 of Wiley, Heron, Harper, Brown come back to Auburn

Josh Vitale | AU Writer
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May 21, 2018 Updated 15 hrs ago

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Austin Wiley (50), Mustapha Heron (5), Jared Harper (1) and Bryce Brown (2) all entered their names in the NBA Draft after the 2018 season.

OA News File Photos

 

ALEXANDER CITY — The Auburn men’s basketball program has been in something of a waiting game since four of its top players entered their names into the NBA Draft early last month, but the wait may prove worth it.

Coach Bruce Pearl believes “there’s a chance” that all four players — center Austin Wiley and guards Mustapha Heron, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown — could return to the Tigers for the 2018-19 season.

Previously, it seemed the best-case scenario for Auburn would be bringing back just Wiley, Harper and Brown, who each stated at the outset that they did not plan to hire agents. Heron did declare his intent to sign with an agent, but he has not and is now reportedly “50-50” on whether he will return to school.

They have until May 30 — next Wednesday — to decide and maintain their eligibility.

“They’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said before his BP Fore the Children Golf Classic at Willow Point Country Club on Monday. “I just feel, as we get closer to deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. But it would not surprise me still to see a couple of them stay in.”

The likeliest bets to keep their names in the draft still appear to be Heron and Wiley, the latter because of that initially stated desire to sign with an agent and the former because he was the only one of the four to be invited to last week’s NBA Draft Combine.

Heron, a 6-foot-5 wing who averaged a team-high 16.4 points on 43.9 percent shooting to go along with 4.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore, has worked out with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers and has more scheduled with the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz.

“I’m trying to get all the feedback I can,” Heron told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog. “I’m just enjoying it right now, trying to have fun, trying to get better. This has been something I’ve always dreamed of as a kid, being able to work out in front of NBA GMs.”

Wiley measured very well at the combine, raking eighth among centers in height (6-foot-10), fifth in weight (249.4 pounds), tied for fourth in wingspan (7 feet, 5 inches), tied for third in hand length (9.75 inches) and width (10.25 inches, and first in body fat (5 percent). He also scrimmaged well, totaling nine points (7 for 11 from the free throw line), five rebounds and four blocks in 19 minutes.

But Wiley is still coming off a season on the sideline for his part in the actions that led to the arrest and dismissal of former associate head coach Chuck Person. Despite averaging 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2016-17 and 10.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per game for Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Cup last summer, Wiley is still just the 80th-ranked player in a 60-pick draft, according to Sports Illustrated.

“It’s really hard to get into the first round where there’s guaranteed money because there are only 30 slots,” Pearl said. “About 75 percent of the second-round guys have to spend so much time in the G League now. I think the NBA, when they enhanced the G League, I think they thought that maybe it was going to encourage more kids to come out, but I think it’s actually done the opposite.

“I think a few years ago, a mid-second-round pick, even though it wasn’t guaranteed, you had a better chance of seeing the floor at some point. Now, they just send you right to the G League. I don’t think anybody would prefer that necessarily at age 18 or 19 or 20 to being in college and playing against our competition and continue to train.”

Brown and Harper (who have each had at least one NBA workout with the Atlanta Hawks) seem the most likely to return. The rising senior shooting guard (who averaged 15.9 points and made 107 3s) and junior point guard (13.2 points, 5.4 assists) have hinted at such on Instagram, with the latter saying, "We took off this year and got more for yall next yr (sic)" and the former replying "And you know thattttttt (sic)” after they were each awarded a share of the team MVP award along with Heron at the team’s postseason banquet late last month.

Auburn will certainly be without transfers Davion Mitchell (Baylor) and Desean Murray (Western Kentucky), but returning two, three or even all four of Wiley, Heron, Harper and Brown would provide a significant boost to a group that right now features Anfernee McLemore, Chuma Okeke, Danjel Purifoy, Horace Spencer, Malik Dunbar and Samir Doughty.

“What’s our mission? Our mission is to get our student-athletes from here to there. My job is to try to help those guys get their degrees and have an opportunity to play professional basketball,” Pearl said. “And you have to — it’s been the case all spring long — focus on the individual. It’s not time to worry about the team. It’s time to worry about them and what they’re doing. Help them realize those individual goals. If we get the kind of information that tells us it’s in their best interest for them to come back as individuals, they’ll come back and then we’ll build a team.”

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Opelika-Auburn News. You can follow him on Twitter at @AUBlog. To reach him by email, click here.

 

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Final four....thats quite the goal. Never happened before at AU. I would love to get to see that....

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11 hours ago, gravejd said:

Final four....thats quite the goal. Never happened before at AU. I would love to get to see that....

I just want for someone to have to play their best game of the season to beat us in the tourney or else we move on. I don't want to see a flop at the end of season. Saw it in football, basketball and softball. Baseball has fought out of that trend this year when it started to follow course. 

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21 minutes ago, AUBwins said:

I just want for someone to have to play their best game of the season to beat us in the tourney or else we move on. I don't want to see a flop at the end of season. Saw it in football, basketball and softball. Baseball has fought out of that trend this year when it started to follow course. 

Agree with the bolded part. In fairness injuries played a big part in the basketball drop off at the end but I get what you're saying. 

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In football we had 1 injury and the all-too-common coaching brain fart down the stretch leading us to a flop.

In basketball we were stretched so thin personnel wise after an injury that we could no longer be the force we were prior Anfernee being out. We already were 2 men down, then make it 3 key players that can't play and it's just too much to overcome for a team that was tied for youngest in the nation. People were having to play too many minutes, in roles that they were not comfortable playing in, and eventually everything caved in. Still won the SEC title though, even going through the last half month or so of the season even more short-handed than we started the season. So I do not see this as flopping at the end of the year. We lost an entire third of what we thought our rotation was going to be heading into the year. No team will look good going up against all of that. We got NCAA tourney experience in a year where we were picked to finish 4-14. There are older, more mature teams that would've let all the outside noise and the dwindling roster get in the way of actually winning the conference but these guys fought through it. So I don't see it as flopping at the end, but more like we hung on enough to hang a banner despite everything that happened.

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Flop was not the best word choice.  Maybe disappointing or aggravating was more appropriate. While each sport started strong and, in football's case,  finished regular season strong; our level of play in the postseason left something to be desired.  Each team had legitimate reasons for the fall, but it was a fall nonetheless. Just ready to see a strong postseason. 

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totally agree AUB. For that basketball to have been as great as it was it sure sucked getting bounced by bama in SEC and throttled by Clemson in the NCAA tourney. The reasons it went down that way are legit and understandable. Still a crappy way to end an amazing season. 

But we get all our guys back we should have the players to make it through the whole season this go around. And with last year ending the way it did i bet they stay hungry too!

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27 minutes ago, gravejd said:

totally agree AUB. For that basketball to have been as great as it was it sure sucked getting bounced by bama in SEC and throttled by Clemson in the NCAA tourney. The reasons it went down that way are legit and understandable. Still a crappy way to end an amazing season. 

Still can't help but believe that mentally, some of our guys were already moving on to the NBA or some other school at that point. 

I can't recall that anyone played sound basketball in the final 3 games...it wasn't just the long season or injuries.....JMO but I'm thinking they were "already gone" before the season even ended.   I don't think we will see that this season. 

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5 minutes ago, AU64 said:

Still can't help but believe that mentally, some of our guys were already moving on to the NBA or some other school at that point. 

I can't recall that anyone played sound basketball in the final 3 games...it wasn't just the long season or injuries.....JMO but I'm thinking they were "already gone" before the season even ended.   I don't think we will see that this season. 

i know a tennessee cat from another board and he claims he is glad bruce is gone. he said everybody loved bruce and he is a winner but that with the style bruce coaches his teams are always tired as hell at the end of the year. is it possible there is some truth to this? i know we had a ton of injuries last year so i am not sure it can be said they were tired because of his run and gun type this past season. and i am not up on the different styles of play to say this is true or not. what say yee 64?

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6 minutes ago, aubiefifty said:

i know a tennessee cat from another board and he claims he is glad bruce is gone. he said everybody loved bruce and he is a winner but that with the style bruce coaches his teams are always tired as hell at the end of the year. is it possible there is some truth to this? i know we had a ton of injuries last year so i am not sure it can be said they were tired because of his run and gun type this past season. and i am not up on the different styles of play to say this is true or not. what say yee 64?

Guess I'm thinking it was more mental than physical.   A number of top teams play with limited number of players and seem to last the season. ...especially when they have a goal within reach, they seem to rise to the occasion.     Not sure that BP's playing style is a factor...JMO but players lost focus and BP could not get them turned around. 

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I don't know why the players would have mentally checked out on the season. Of the guys playing at the end of the season Heron is the only one you could possibly say that about as he was really the only one playing that had the possibility of going pro. I think injuries and just getting wore out from playing so much with missing so many players just caught up with us and we ran out of gas. 

And plenty of teams have won championships with the style of play Pearl likes to run. The problem we've had is we haven't had the guys to do it for a full season. Last year after McLemore got hurt we were no longer playing the pressing style Pearl likes to play. Early in the season we were. You can see the difference in results for yourself. 

 

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1 hour ago, gravejd said:

I don't know why the players would have mentally checked out on the season. Of the guys playing at the end of the season Heron is the only one you could possibly say that about as he was really the only one playing that had the possibility of going pro. I think injuries and just getting wore out from playing so much with missing so many players just caught up with us and we ran out of gas. 

And plenty of teams have won championships with the style of play Pearl likes to run. The problem we've had is we haven't had the guys to do it for a full season. Last year after McLemore got hurt we were no longer playing the pressing style Pearl likes to play. Early in the season we were. You can see the difference in results for yourself. 

 

That's true but I'm thinking of the poor shooting from everyone and loose play....but guess it could go either way.  And while nothing had been made public by other players about NBA aspirations, there is sometimes a chain reaction once one player starts thinking or talking about an issue. 

By the end of March, Murray was taking about transferring and in early April some had declared their intention to check out the NBA.  Maybe those were spur of the moment decisions but I'm guessing they had been thinking about that for a while....but who knows ?   we are not likely to ever know one way or the other. 

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We were down to a shell of 8 men with our most unique matchup problem for other teams out. We were worn down and tired and our play showed that. It doesn't always have to be some big underlying dramatic thing in the background like players who are not on a single NBA mock draft looking ahead to big pay days to explain poor play. 

We had a shot at a championship (and won it) with a dwindling roster and limped to the finish. Our slide coincided with Anfernee's injury. Half of our losses on the entire season came after Anfernee was hurt over a span of 7 games. Does anyone think that players started thinking about their pro prospects the moment Anfernee went down? It just doesn't make sense. 

Poor shooting can be explained by fatigue (shortened rotation) and overexertion (playing longer minutes, with expanded roles in those minutes) and our top shooter, in Bryce, had a foot AND shoulder injury and played through it. That affects your shot immensely. We had to play Blackstock for a bit for crying out loud and there's a thought our players were looking ahead out there?? The answer doesn't have to be so complicated sometimes. Remove a key starter from the team and of course things look rocky. That's basketball. Especially when you consider Anfernee was a rim protector who shot 3s. He deterred shots and also took our opponents center out of the lane - forcing defenses to help more when our guys drove, opening the 3 ball for our shooters. Take Anfernee out of that and now we become exponentially easier to defend, on top of all the previously mentioned things.

As far as Pearl's teams down the stretch, I will say that I do remember this being a thing for Tennessee. I don't know if he softens practice towards the end of the season, or if the team is tired or what but honestly I can live with it. You won't see me complaining about NCAA Tournament births and hitting 25+ wins. We aren't Arizona, we don't have a reason to gripe about early tourney exits right now.

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Last years team did everything it could to hang on for a tie of the regular season Championship.  With how thin they were,. They knew that was their true last goal they could achieve.   Everything went in to limping to the finish line,. They were toast after that and it didn't matter.  They were accomplished.  

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13 hours ago, The Plainsman said:

Last years team did everything it could to hang on for a tie of the regular season Championship.  With how thin they were,. They knew that was their true last goal they could achieve.   Everything went in to limping to the finish line,. They were toast after that and it didn't matter.  They were accomplished.  

HEY we beat UT straight up at their place. Ain't no tie if you ask me! Tennessee remembers that big fat L we gave them.

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19 hours ago, Tiger said:

We were down to a shell of 8 men with our most unique matchup problem for other teams out. We were worn down and tired and our play showed that. It doesn't always have to be some big underlying dramatic thing in the background like players who are not on a single NBA mock draft looking ahead to big pay days to explain poor play. 

We had a shot at a championship (and won it) with a dwindling roster and limped to the finish. Our slide coincided with Anfernee's injury. Half of our losses on the entire season came after Anfernee was hurt over a span of 7 games. Does anyone think that players started thinking about their pro prospects the moment Anfernee went down? It just doesn't make sense. 

Poor shooting can be explained by fatigue (shortened rotation) and overexertion (playing longer minutes, with expanded roles in those minutes) and our top shooter, in Bryce, had a foot AND shoulder injury and played through it. That affects your shot immensely. We had to play Blackstock for a bit for crying out loud and there's a thought our players were looking ahead out there?? The answer doesn't have to be so complicated sometimes. Remove a key starter from the team and of course things look rocky. That's basketball. Especially when you consider Anfernee was a rim protector who shot 3s. He deterred shots and also took our opponents center out of the lane - forcing defenses to help more when our guys drove, opening the 3 ball for our shooters. Take Anfernee out of that and now we become exponentially easier to defend, on top of all the previously mentioned things.

As far as Pearl's teams down the stretch, I will say that I do remember this being a thing for Tennessee. I don't know if he softens practice towards the end of the season, or if the team is tired or what but honestly I can live with it. You won't see me complaining about NCAA Tournament births and hitting 25+ wins. We aren't Arizona, we don't have a reason to gripe about early tourney exits right now.

If by fading at the end of a season you mean losing in the elite 8 by 1 point to Michigan St, then yeah I guess his teams really faded and fell apart. Or maybe it was losing by a point to eventual National Champion Ohio St in the sweet 16.

 

I'd say the combination of Brown's shoulder injury (I don't think he ever felt comfortable again after that) and Anfernee's injury really did us in much more than overall fatigue.

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So uh.... we have 4 days until the 30th, and not one of these four guys has stated his intention to return? Is this something guys usually wait until the last minute on? 

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It probably does not matter. If any go, they go. But in my world, I like to think, the closer we are to the cut off date, without a declaration from any of them, the better off we are. 

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34 minutes ago, WDE_OxPx_2010 said:

2 out of 3 so far ain't bad! Come on Harper, join the title defense!!!!

 

poof! done.

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Assuming Harper returns (and I’ve never really doubted that), this should be fun. The questions are, (1) who plays 3 until Danjel is eligible to return; (2) who wins that 4 spot between McLemore and Okeke; and (3) who takes the backup PG responsibilities. 

May guess is Doughty answers 1 and 3. He likely starts to give us a 3-guard look at the start of the year and serves as the backup PG when Harper sits. After the start of the game, we can stagger minutes to make that happen. Plus, that carves put a role for Dunbar to play alongside both Harper and Doughty. Once Putifoy comes back, Doughty and Dunbar are part of the bench mob. 

At the four, I’m guessing Chuma starts early. That allows McLemore more time to rehab and ease back to game speed. I could see it shifting mid-season if the team needs a true rim protector. Okeke seems to fit well with Wiley on the offensive end though  

Spencer serves as the backup Center. I like this team’s make and size. 

Harper, Brown, Doughty, Purifoy, Dunbar, Okeke, McLemore, Wiley, and Spencer. That’s a good nine-man group with versatility and size. Should be fun. 

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33 minutes ago, mcgufcm said:

Harper, Brown, Doughty, Purifoy, Dunbar, Okeke, McLemore, Wiley, and Spencer. That’s a good nine-man group with versatility and size. Should be fun.

Yes, indeed!  My preseason hopes for AU basketball have never been higher!

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