Preseason Observations: Flanigan's return, three big position battles and some recruiting honesty
Auburn basketball welcomed 28 NBA teams to its annual Pro Day on Wednesday afternoon. Here's everything we learned about Bruce Pearl's squad.
There were two absences on each side of Auburn basketball’s Pro Day on Wednesday afternoon. The Toronto Raptors and the Phoenix Suns were the only two NBA teams who didn’t have a representative in the Arena. And the Tigers were without Zep Jasper (illness) and Chance Westry (recent knee surgery).
But it was still a successful afternoon for the program — especially with Allen Flanigan back on the floor.
“Al’s back, and that’s great,” Bruce Pearl said.
Flanigan missed the first two weeks of fall practices due to what Pearl called “personal family reasons.” But the senior wing and his father, assistant coach Wes Flanigan, are both out there again for Auburn as it hits crunch time for preseason preparations.
With Westry out for two or three more weeks while recovering from his arthroscopic knee surgery — which he got the same time as Pearl, last week in Birmingham — Flanigan’s return couldn’t have come at a better time. He has a few weeks to knock off any rust and continue his climb back from a rocky junior season that was heavily impacted by an Achilles injury away from the court.
According to materials that Auburn provided for scouts and media members Wednesday, Flanigan had the best numbers for the Tigers’ scholarship players in the vertical leap (32.5”), 3/4 court sprint (3.2), reaction shuttle (2.992) and the four-way agility drill (10.474). Flanigan is back to an elite level physically. It’s just a matter of putting all of the basketball, especially on offense, back together.
The highlight of Auburn’s completely open Pro Day — the Tigers’ usual practices can be viewed by media members but not reported on, per Pearl’s request — was a scrimmage that consisted of two 10-minute periods, as well as several two-minute “crunch time” simulations.
Flanigan, newly back to practice, started with a mostly scout team lineup at small forward and hit a tough, contested 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first 10-minute period in a tie. He didn’t have an efficient shooting performance on the whole (2-13 and 1-5 from the deep) as he knocks the rust off, but he made several impact plays on both ends of the floor and had a scout-team high in plus/minus.
Moore was the primary small forward on the first-choice lineup. He didn’t have a shot attempt from the floor but hit a pair of free throws while being active on the boards and on defense. Moore is coming off of what Pearl called a “great summer,” including a standout final game against the Israel senior national team, and he’ll remain in the thick of things at the 3 in preseason prep.
“There's been some carryover,” Pearl said. “But he’s getting pushed by Lior. He’s getting pushed by Al. Chance will be back in a few weeks. It’ll probably be a moving target. But, you know, at the end of the summer, Chris was right there in having a chance to start at the position. He’s still right there.”
Pearl went on to say that at “two of the five spots,” he knows who is going to start for the Tigers this season. For more on those spots — and the ones still up for grabs — here are some Observations of what we learned from Auburn basketball on Wednesday afternoon.