The Stretch 4: Johni Broome, transfer wings, Aden Holloway and more from Bruce Pearl
Bruce Pearl discussed all the moving pieces on his 2023-24 Auburn basketball roster on Monday at Lake Martin.
HC Bruce Pearl (Steven Leonard/Auburn Athletics)
LAKE MARTIN — Bruce Pearl is about to enter his 10th season as the head men’s basketball coach at Auburn.
If that statement sounds wild to you, it does to the man himself, too.
“It's unbelievable… I feel like I just got here,” Pearl said Monday afternoon, before the start of his 10th annual Fore the Children charity golf classic on nearby Lake Martin.
A lot has changed in the near-decade of Pearl on the Plains. The Tigers have reached unprecedented heights — multiple regular-season SEC titles, a Final Four run, a rise to No. 1 in the country and a string of first-round NBA draft picks — under his watch. Auburn has gone from a basketball afterthought to a difficult ticket to get.
When Pearl started, NIL wasn’t a thing. Transfer movement in college basketball was at a fraction of what it is now. And the conference has gone from the sarcastic #SECBasketballFever days to one of the best leagues in the country, where the talent and coaching levels have been raised year after year.
Pearl’s offseason calendar has been transformed, too. Last week, he spent time in Israel to “charge his batteries” — but he spent a good portion of that time working the phones on the recruiting trail, because the Tigers still have work to do in a roster overhaul that has just become commonplace in the sport for everybody.
“You know, last week was the perfect week to be gone,” Pearl said. “We had graduation. We had no class. Guys come back in Wednesday for classes. It was the right time to be gone. When I go next year, I might have to push it back a week, just because of the recruiting calendar. But how do you visit kids when your team is on break? How do you have official visits to campus?
“So, the combination of the portal and the NIL together has really made it challenging. I think NIL is great, and the transfer portal — particularly the one-time transfer portal — is great. Combined, with all the appeals and the early entry to the NBA Draft, it's crazy.”
Even in mid-May, there are so many moving pieces still for Auburn, which has already added three newcomers this offseason. The transfer portal window and the NBA Draft process has made the roster management process more fluid than ever.
Pearl talked about several of those moving pieces, including the recent run for Johni Broome and the vacancy left on the wing from the departure of Allen Flanigan, on Monday afternoon. In this special edition of The Stretch 4, let’s dive into all of what Pearl had to say about his team.
C Johni Broome (Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics)
What Broome’s big weekend means for Auburn
Few NBA Draft prospects had as big of a weekend as Broome, who participated in the G League Elite Camp in Chicago — a precursor to this week’s main combine.
(Pearl said Monday he expects Jaylin Williams and Dylan Cardwell, who declared for the NBA Draft but didn’t get invited to the G League Elite Camp, to return to Auburn for the upcoming season.)
Broome was one of just eight players who got called up from the Elite Camp to the NBA Combine for their performances across two scrimmages. Broome scored 23 points on 8-11 shooting in the first game Saturday and added four rebounds before posting a 17-and-8 line in the second game Sunday.
Now Broome will get an opportunity to participate in the combine, which starts Tuesday. More than 80 players made the final cut, but the NBA Draft only has 60 spots.
Getting a combine invite is undoubtedly a huge honor for Broome and a testament to the second-team All-SEC center’s work. Yet these late invites rarely turn out to be draft success stories at this point in the process.
“Last year, seven guys went from the G League Combine and got invited to the (NBA) Combine,” Pearl said. “None of them got drafted. It's really, really hard to make that jump because there are so many guys that get invited to the combine that aren't going to get drafted, right?
“But Johni definitely helped himself and clearly does the things that he does. He's able to score, he played physically, he has high basketball IQ. And the things he needs to continue to work on — his defense, his rim protection, rebounding out of his area —we'll see that again. The level of competition at the (NBA) Combine will be higher than the G League Combine. He did great.”
Pearl’s advice to any NBA Draft prospects coming out of Auburn remains the same: “Can you get into that first round?”
If so, that player needs to go ahead and make the jump. If not…
“It's hard to climb out of the second round,” Pearl said. “Guys that go second round, they're not the general manager's first pick, they do the two-way contract, they spend most of their time in the G League.
“We're rooting for Johni, on one hand. On the other hand, we'd obviously love to have him back because he could be one of the best players preseason in college basketball next season.”
If Broome continues to shine in the pre-draft process and elects to stay in it, Pearl said Auburn is “involved with some (centers) that are kind of waiting to see what he does.”
“I don't know they'll be as good as Johni, because obviously Johni had a terrific year, and next year could have an even better year,” Pearl said. “Let's see how he does this week. But I'm very proud of him, very happy for him, and I would have expected him to go there and do that well.”
SG K.D. Johnson and target Tyrin Lawrence (Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics)
Auburn is ‘actively involved’ with multiple wing transfers
With Flanigan entering the transfer portal, the Tigers have a hole in their roster at the small forward spot.