At the NBA Draft, Auburn basketball makes history — and gets a reminder of what it's still up against
Jabari Smith became the top pick in program history. Walker Kessler joined him to be the first pair of first-rounders ever. But there's still more for the Tigers to prove.
(Darren Tolud/Roc Nation)
Before Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler learned their NBA Draft destinations inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Thursday night, Bruce Pearl spent some time about six miles away, on the corner of Broadway and 46th Street in midtown Manhattan.
There, occupying some famous real estate on Times Square billboards, Auburn basketball lit up the New York City evening. The sight of it made Pearl’s eyes water.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than this, and there we are,” Pearl said. “This small school in Auburn, Alabama that’s competing with the big boys. A program that’s been ranked in the top 10 four out of the last five years. And yeah, there we are — with Jabari's picture, with Walker's picture, with my picture and with a picture of the whole team.
“Loud and proud and in Times Square. New York, New York.”
Thursday night would become a historic one for Pearl and his program. For the first time ever, the Tigers could boast multiple first-round picks in a single NBA Draft. And Smith was virtually guaranteed to become the highest draft pick in Auburn history.
But even on a special and successful night for Auburn, there was a firm reminder of how much the program still has to prove in the eyes of the basketball world.