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B-ball Team Awards Night and Reloading


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Pearl praises Smith and says Auburn basketball is 'reloading'

20 hours ago

AUBURN, Alabama–Bruce Pearl said there were multiple good candidates when the Auburn basketball coaching staff was deciding on who would be selected for awards honoring the 2021-22 team, but noted that the Tiger chosen for the Most Valuable Player honor is one who stands out above all others from Pearl's decades as a college coach.

“I have never coached the best player on the floor every single game–never,” Pearl said of Jabari Smith, who was both the SEC Freshman of the Year and the national freshman of the year.

“I have never coached somebody who wanted to practice every day and was ready to practice and ready to prepare,” Pearl said on Wednesday night at the team’s awards banquet at Neville Arena. More than 600 people attended the event to honor the SEC championship team.

“He didn’t want to let his teammates down,” Pearl pointed out. “He knew who he was. He knew what he had to do for us to be successful and be a champion. He didn’t want to let us down and he never let us down, and we got a chance to enjoy him. We have got a chance to celebrate him and now we will get a chance to hopefully watch him be the number one player taken in the 2023 NBA Draft.”

Smith, a 6-10 forward, was named first team All-SEC as well as to multiple All-American teams. The United States Basketball Writers Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches named him Freshman of the Year for all of college hoops after he averaged a team-leading 16.9 points per game while averaging 7.4 rebounds.

“I want to thank my teammates and thank the fans,” Smith said. “I am going to be an Auburn man my whole life. Thank you and War Eagle.”

 

10955401.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Freshman forward Jabari Smith is shown after the Tigers secured the SEC championship. (Photo: Adam Sparks / Inside the Auburn Tigers, 247Sports)

Auburn’s other All-American, sophomore center/forward Walker Kessler, won the awards for most improved player and the Iron Tiger award for his strength and conditioning efforts.

Sophomore point guard Wendell Green won the sixth man award and the John Mengelt as the team’s best free throw shooter.

Senior point guard Zep Jasper was named the Tigers’ top defensive performer in an upset pick considering Kessler is the SEC as well as national defensive player of the year.

Another sophomore guard, K.D. Johnson, won the Spirit of Auburn Award.

Chris Moore and Babatunde Akingbolashared the Sonny Smith Outstanding Teammate honor. Allen Flanigan and Jaylin Williams shared the Mike Mitchell Courage Award.

Dylan Cardwell and Lior Berman were honored as the top academic performers on a roster that featured an SEC-high eight players who earned academic all-league status. Berman won the Gary Waters Award and Cardwell took home the Bill Lynn Award.

“It was a fun year,” Pearl said of the team that finished  28-6 overall and 15-3 in the SEC. “These guys were fun to coach and fun to watch.”

17COMMENTS

Auburn’s coach added “We are reloading. We are bringing in really good kids and really good players, who want to be on really good teams, who want to be coached, who want to get better and who want to win championships.”

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