What Auburn basketball is getting in 5-star big man Yohan Traore
Bruce Pearl and Co. have landed another frontcourt star — a late 2022 flip from France with an impressive all-around offensive skill set.
Auburn basketball’s outright SEC championship season was keyed by arguably the most talented frontcourt in program history — Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler, former 5-star high school rivals who teamed up on the Plains at the headliners of Bruce Pearl’s roster overhaul.
It’s safe to say Smith and Kessler lived up to the hype. Both were All-Americans. Earlier this week, Smith was named National Freshman of the Year by two different organizations, and Kessler already has one National Defensive Player of the Year award to his name.
In college basketball, elite talent comes with a limited shelf life. Smith will be in the running for No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft as a one-and-done prospect. Kessler is a projected first-rounder, and it’s more likely that he heads to the league after a stellar sophomore season.
Auburn had a luxury it hadn’t had in decades this past season — a frontcourt with NBA talent. And, even before the season ended, Pearl was hard at work making sure that wouldn’t be something it would give up even if Smith and Kessler went pro.
Enter Yohan Traore, who committed to Auburn on Thursday. Traore was formerly committed to LSU but backed off his pledge after the firing of Will Wade. Auburn quickly emerged as a top contender for Traore, even hosting him on an unofficial visit before the Tigers left for the NCAA Tournament.
Traore is a top-tier talent, currently ranked as the No. 15 overall player and the No. 4 center in the 247Sports Composite for the class of 2022. His recruit score of 0.9933 is the second-highest Auburn has ever landed, trailing only Smith. It’s even higher than what the Tigers picked up in the transfer portal with Kessler.
Traore is, quite literally, a massive addition for an Auburn team looking to remain a consistent contender in the arms race that is SEC basketball. 247Sports lists him at 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds. He is an immediate boost for a frontcourt that could lose both of its All-Americans.
But Traore isn’t the typical 5-star basketball recruit. A native of Tours, France, Traore left the prestigious sports academy INSEP in his home country for America in August 2020. He played his junior season at Prolific Prep in California, but he came off the bench on a team loaded with elite big men and didn’t record a ton of stats.
Traore then caught fire on the AAU circuit, playing for Texas’ Southern Assault and California’s Dream Vision. Last summer, he was ranked outside of the top 70 nationally for the class of 2022. His rise to becoming a 5-star was highlighted by standout showings at events such as the NBPA Top 100 Camp and the 3SSB Adidas Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
At the NBPA Camp, Traore ranked third in scoring (12.4 points per game) and 12th in field goal percentage (51.9%). According to Jason Jordan of Sports Illustrated, Traore averaged 25 points and 14 rebounds per game in Hoover. (He also shot 80% from the free-throw line, which is an eye-popping stat for a physical big man.)
After a busy summer, Traore played his senior season at Dream City Christian in Glendale, Arizona. He racked up major scholarship offers and high-profile visits before committing to LSU in late January. Less than two months later, he was back on the market, with Auburn pouncing on the opportunity.