Yohan Traore is starting to come out of his shell.
The five-star freshman had flashes in a 81-66 trouncing at South Carolina, hitting a couple of 3s and logging a fastbreak dunk. He finished with eight points, marking a performance that the Frenchman said brought a confidence boost.
“I was really excited to play, just come in and play,” Traore said Tuesday. “It was very fun to make plays, knock down shots and make teams win.”
Traore’s point total was the most he’d scored since Auburn beat Colgate on Dec. 2, and though he only played 10 minutes, he showed some aggression, matching a career high with six field goal attempts.
It’s been a quiet year for Traore as No. 15 Auburn has gotten deeper into its season. He’s averaging 11.7 minutes per contest, a number that has dropped as the Tigers transitioned into Southeastern Conference play. That downturn was something Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl explained last month.
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“Yo’s going from playing high school as more of an inside player to, now, the best position at Auburn — our point forward position, that 4 man,” Pearl said Dec. 8. “I mean, he’s being asked to do things inside and out offensively and defensively that are so different from what he was doing in high school.
“For his development, long-term, this is great. But it doesn’t allow him to be as productive. Now, if I just played him at center and played him as a stretch 5, he’d be much more comfortable, particularly offensively.”
But with Traore’s success over the weekend, he spoke to reporters for the first time since November, between the Tigers’ exhibition against Alabama-Huntsville and their season-opener against George Mason.
At least one teammate doesn’t think the success is sudden. Johni Broome said Tuesday that Traore has great practices of late, and Traore added that he’s continued to physically develop since he arrived on the Plains, adding another 10 pounds to his 6-foot-11 frame.
“(He’s) not just making shots, but his communication level has increased,” Broome said of Traore. “He’s been rebounding better, just getting to his spots quicker and executing on the offensive end. In the (South Carolina) game it showed. He had a couple big shots and a couple dunks. The stuff you’re going to see is his defensive communication when we’re on the court with him. He just talks a lot more.”