Head Men's Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)
Coach Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Men’s Basketball team held their second scrimmage of the preseason on Wednesday and continued to show signs of fast play, as well as allowing young players the opportunity to compete in live action.
The scrimmage saw three 10-minute periods, with the final period being a high-energy filled 5 minutes. Both halves ended with a buzzer-beating shot, which stood out to Pearl.
“There is not a tremendous separation, because I even the teams out on both scrimmages, and we ended up even,” Pearl said of the scrimmage.
Pearl went on to say that his team is not big, but what the lack in size, they make up for with speed and physicality. Pearl did say that one area he wants to see improve, is rebounding. They have the ability to bother teams with their style of play, but rebounding could be the area of play needed to create separation.
What else did Pearl like about the scrimmage? Here is what he said.
Mustapha Heron, Jared Harper, Anfernee McLemore, and Danjel Purifoy each had a solid scrimmage on Wednesday. McLemore ended the night with a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds). “He looks like a man because we do not have many big-bodied guys,” Pearl said of McLemore, who has gained nearly 40 pounds of muscle since arriving on campus. “A 6’7” 230-pound freshman should not be that physically imposing, and would not be on most SEC rosters. Our front end is light, and a guy like Anfernee will stand out. He is going to be a really good player.”
For Heron, the freshman from Waterbury, Connecticut is the first five-star signee that Auburn basketball has ever had. Pearl believes that having that title will not phase Heron, because of the type of player that he is. “I can handle it because he can handle it.” Pearl said after being asked if Heron could handle his “big man on campus” status. “Mustapha Heron is a five-star, not because he is a freak. He is a five-star because he is a disciplined student-athlete.” Heron scored 12 points in the scrimmage, but what else does Pearl see in him? “He is a guy that is in here all the time at 6:30 in the morning. He eats right, he takes care of his body. He trains, he is a hard worker. He is a great athlete, and he has a great future in professional basketball. He is not expecting to come in here as a freshman, and be a dominating 5-star player.” What can we expect to see from Heron this season? “He is not going to be a player that is going to lead us in scoring every night. There could be a night that he does. But he is in a good place. Our fans will not be disappointed.”
Purifoy ended the scrimmage with 22 points, 6 rebounds, and five assists.
Transfer Laron Smith:
Laron Smith enters this season as a graduate transfer student. Pearl says that he has improved since arriving, but does not know the extent of what he can do because he does not have a way for him to go up against a “big guy” at practice. Pearl appreciates his ability to score, and his confidence. Smith will play a key role, as well as Purifoy and McLemore will be a fixture on the front line to replace players such as Cinmeon Bowers, and Tyler Harris.
At Point Guard:
Pearl talked about the lack of separation following Wednesday’s scrimmage, one of those being at point guard. The battle is between two newcomers in Graduate Student Ronnie Johnson, and freshman Jared Harper. “They are both really good,” Pearl said of the two players competing for that spot on the floor. Harper swapped teams during the scrimmage. The second team that Harper played for was down by 7 when he entered, and he was able to drain two three-pointers in the winning effort. Pearl says that experience and a winning mentality is what stands out to him about Johnson.
Pearl is excited, however, that he does have an option at point guard this season. “We have clearly upgraded the position. Both of those guys are real cerebral, they both understand how to play.”
Auburn continues preparations for their opener against North Florida on November 11th at Auburn Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 P.M.