The Stretch 4: Portal plans, a new assistant, impact transfers and more
How many more transfers do the Tigers want? What stands out with the new faces? And what about all the NBA draft entries?
HC Bruce Pearl (Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics)
ATLANTA — Bruce Pearl is always busy, but the last few weeks have been on a different level.
Since Auburn’s exit at the hands of Houston in the NCAA Tournament in March, Pearl has overseen a roster overhaul that still isn't close to being finished. The Tigers have seen a pair players transfer out, a pair of players transfer in and several more enter the NBA Draft process.
“We have four or five guys that can look to play professionally,” Pearl said Tuesday. “We’ve got, on average, about 3.5 per team per year entering the transfer portal nationally. … So, it forces us to have to continue really hard in the months of April and May to not only work with your players and help them finish up their spring conditioning and basketball and academics, and figure out what they’re trying to do, as well as then recruit to replace guys you didn’t think you were going to have to replace — and didn’t want to replace.
“There weren’t any of those guys, really, that I would’ve preferred to look. But the transfer thing swings both ways. Auburn is an incredibly special place. We’ve worked really hard to establish ourselves as a competitive basketball program. And so, we’re just going to bring in really good guys that we think can help us continue to be competitive. It just forces us to work a little differently.”
Pearl took time out of his loaded schedule Tuesday to appear in Atlanta with head football coach Hugh Freeze and athletic director John Cohen as part of Auburn’s annual Ambush tour of alumni club visits.
The trio — along with other Auburn athletics figures — will visit Huntsville on Thursday, followed by trips to Nashville and the West Georgia clubs in mid-May.
Atlanta always is a special place for Pearl, who has developed six different area players into NBA Draft picks during his time at Auburn. (One of them, Walker Kessler, finished third in NBA Rookie of the Year voting on Tuesday night.)
So it’s important for him to spend time in a city that has been a fertile recruiting and fundraising ground, as well as a continued site for non-conference matchups each winter. According to Pearl, that will continue in 2023.
“The last couple of years, we’ve played in Atlanta in a very special Hoopsgiving holiday special,” Pearl said. “We played Memphis last year, and we've got a great opponent coming in this year. I don't know if it's been announced yet, but we've got a great opponent coming in again in a December game down at the arena the Hawks play in. It's great to be here to thank our fans for all their support.”
Pearl had a lot of ground to cover Tuesday in his first press conference since the end of the 2022-23 regular season — from the shifting members of his roster to a major change on his coaching staff.
In this special offseason edition of The Stretch 4, here’s a full breakdown of what the Tigers’ head basketball coach had to say, starting with an update on a key starter from last season’s squad.
SF Allen Flanigan (Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics)
Why Allen Flanigan hasn’t made a draft announcement
So far this offseason, Wendell Green Jr., Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome have publicly announced that they’re entering the 2023 NBA Draft. Williams and Broome both specifically said they were retaining their college eligibility — meaning they can withdraw and still play for the Tigers next season — while Green did not.
Allen Flanigan, meanwhile, has not made any sort of public announcement about his future. And there’s a very good reason for that.
“In Al's case, he's already declared twice,” Pearl said. “So you can't declare a third time. If you do, you have to stay in the draft. So there's no reason for him to declare anything. Hopefully Al will graduate, and after his graduation, we'll weigh all of his options.”
Flanigan went through the NBA Draft process as an underclassman in each of the last two years and decided to return to Auburn both times.
As a senior who has the option to return for a fifth COVID season in 2023-24, Flanigan was not required to declare for the draft before the deadline for underclassmen expired last Sunday night.
One big aspect of Flanigan’s status is his father. Wes Flanigan, left Auburn’s staff earlier this month to reunite with Chris Beard at Ole Miss.
“I just think everybody's got to do what's best for themselves and what's best for their families,” Pearl said when asked about the elder Flanigan. “We appreciated Wes' time at Auburn.”
Early entries such as Williams and Broome can withdraw from the NBA Draft process and return to college, as long as they do so before the end of May.
It was also revealed on Tuesday evening that Dylan Cardwell has declared for the NBA Draft as an early entrant for the second straight year. Cardwell hasn’t said anything publicly about the decision, yet he is on the NBA’s official list of underclassman entries.
The next step in the underclassmen’s process are the two draft combines — one for the G League and one for the NBA — that happen in Chicago next month.
“That's about the time you have to figure out whether you're going to be invited to that, so you know whether you're going to be drafted,” Pearl said.
HC Bruce Pearl (Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics)
Auburn will ‘bring in at least one’ more transfer… maybe two
Flanigan started more than half of Auburn’s games last season at small forward, or the “3” position. And the Tigers have targeted several players in the transfer portal who would most likely play that spot.
Auburn has brought in two transfers already in Denver Jones and Chaney Johnson — more on them later — and Pearl talked about the possibility of that class doubling by the end of the portal window.