The countdown is on. Honestly, it has been on all year, even if Jalen Green has changed the day AU fans were counting down to a couple of times.
At 1 p.m. today, the No. 3 recruit in the nation according 247Sports composite rankings will announce where he will be playing basketball next season.
The widely held belief throughout the recruiting process was that the 6-foot-5 combo guard would be a one-year rental for a college program before heading to the NBA and professional basketball the next season. Auburn and Memphis had emerged as the front-runners to land his services when that was the most likely course of action.
Recently, that consensus has changed. Adam Zagoria reported for Forbes on Tuesday that Green could be in line to make up to $250,000 next season if he chooses to play in the NBA G-League before entering the 2021 NBA Draft.
Skipping the ‘one-and-done’ year in college and going pro is nothing new for top high-school prospects with LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton each heading to Australia last year before coming back stateside for this year’s draft, but the G-League is still a relatively untested route.
In 2018, Darius Bazley backed out of a commitment to Syracuse and said he was headed to the G-League. Rather than playing in the developmental league, he did an internship with New Balance before becoming a first-round pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019.
With the coronavirus restricting international travel, Green’s potential decision to stay in the United States makes more sense, rather than signing with a professional league in another country for a year. Zagoria also reports that a source tells him that Green would be given his choice of G-League teams to play for.
Auburn has also been in on the recruitment of the No. 1 power forward in the class: Greg Brown. The Austin, Texas, native seems set on taking his talents to his hometown Longhorns though and is set to make that announcement on Friday, March 24.
Pending late drama which could exist with 2021 No. 1 recruit Jonathan Kuminga potentially reclassifying and Auburn being in the running for him, the Tigers team seems largely set moving into 2020-21 so let’s take a look at what that that rotation may end up being.
Assuming Green doesn’t make a surprise commitment to Auburn, the crown jewel of the 2020 class is 5-star point guard Sharife Cooper. Cooper is likely to be handed the keys to the Auburn offense right off the bat with guards J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty having exhausted their eligibility.
At 6-foot, 160 pounds according to 247Sports, Cooper isn’t a physically imposing player, but with elite quickness, he has a prototypical point guard’s skill set and 247Sports’ Director of Basketball Scouting compares him to future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul.
Along with Cooper, Auburn should see 2019 4-star point guard Tyrell Jones get more run as a sophomore. With McCormick and Doughty, Jones was relegated to just 11 games last season.
Isaac Okoro and Doughty were the tone-setters for the Tigers on both ends of the court last season. While Bruce Pearl is certainly still hoping that Green give the Tigers a boost here later today, they do have experienced players ready to step in.
Devan Cambridge, Jamal Johnson and Allen Flanigan each contributed off the bench last season. They each played between 11 and 14 minutes a game on last season’s senior-laden squad.
Cambridge was particularly explosive at times with a 26-point game on 10-14 shooting and 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc against South Carolina and a 21-point game on 7-of-10 shooting from behind the arc against LSU. The Tigers will expect more consistency from him next year in a larger role.
Johnson and Flanigan each showed flashes last year as well, with Johnson scoring 14 twice and Flanigan putting up 12 against Georgia then ending the season with nine at Tennessee.
Three-star Justin Powell should give Pearl another shooter as well. With a 6-5, 180 pound frame, Powell was the second ranked player in Kentucky.
Auburn won’t have sheer size of Austin Wiley or the versatile skills of Danjel Purifoy and Anfernee McLemore patrolling the paint next year, but just like at the guard spots, Pearl expects to have answers to the questions waiting in the wings.
It starts with the returning talent of Jaylin Williams and Babatunde Akingbola. Williams came on down the stretch last season, playing double-digit minutes in each of the Tigers’ final six games. The 6-foot-7, 230 pounder showed his explosiveness on several occasions including a highlight-reel pass to himself off the backboard for a dunk against Tennessee.
Akingbola brings the size and shot-blocking to the defensive end that Auburn covets. As a freshman, he appeared in 13 games. His biggest minutes load came against Tennessee in the season finale and he recorded a blocked shot in six minutes of action.
Javon Franklin also returns after appearing in five games last season.
Reinforcements also come in the form of 3-star signee Chris Moore and 4-star commitment JT Thor. Thor is a slender 190 pounds at 6-foot-8. The lefty brings an all-around game and his range and athleticism may fill a similar role to what McLemore has held.
Moore is thicker at 220 pounds. His 6-foot-7 frame gives the Tigers another big body to throw at teams.
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