Auburn Basketball: Recruiting Analysis

This offseason, Auburn basketball dealt with roster attrition, G League and OTE signing top targets and a busy time in the transfer portal. Now, Auburn is beginning to welcome some of the top recruits in the country back to campus for the first time in more than a year.

With the busy offseason, Auburn might need its 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes to shake out a little differently than expected a couple of months ago.

Here are some of the players Auburn has hosted, some who have scheduled visits and others expected to visit. Several targets had multi-day visits.

The list of players Auburn is hosting gives some insight into who the priorities might be in this cycle, even though recruiting isn’t quite up to full speed yet. This list will be updated with new visits and new game threads and breakdown content.

Visits

June 1: 2023 five-star Kanaan Carlyle
Game threadHighlights (More)
June 1: 2023 five-star Isaiah Collier
Game threadHighlights
June 3: 2023 projected four-star Chase Clemmons
– Game thread – Highlights
June 3: 2022 five-star forward Brandon Miller
– Game thread – Highlights (More)
June 3: 2022 three-star guard PJ Haggerty
– Game thread – Highlights (More)
June 4: 2023 four-star guard Isaiah West
– Game thread – Highlights
June 4: 2023 four-star guard Jeremy Fears Jr
– Game thread – Highlights
June 4: 2023 four-star wing Lamariyon ‘Mari’ Jordan
– Game thread – Highlights
June 4: 2022 guard Efrem “Butta” Johnson
– Game thread – Highlights
June 4: 2023 four-star guard London Johnson
– Game thread – Highlights
June 4: 2023 five-star guard Caleb Foster
– Game thread – Highlights
June 5: 2022 five-star guard Zion Cruz
– Game thread – Highlights (More)
June 5: 2022 five-star forward Jarace Walker
– Game thread – Highlights
June 5: 2022 four-star guard Nick Smith Jr
– Game thread – Highlights
June 5: 2022 four-star forward Chauncey Wiggins
– Game thread – Highlights (More)
June 9: 2022 four-star guard Chance Westry
– Game thread – Highlights
June 9: 2022 four-star forward Dillon Mitchell
– Game thread – Highlights
June 10: 2023 four-star guard Stephon Castle
– Game thread – Highlights
June 10: 2023 four-star guard Jakai Newton
– Game thread – Highlights
June 15: 2022 four-star guard/safety Tre Donaldson
– Game thread – Highlights
June 22: 2022 four-star guard Chandler Jackson
– Game thread – Highlights

TBD: 2022 four-star guard Justice Williams (N/A committed to LSU)
TBD: 2023 four-star guard George Washington III
– Game thread – Highlights
TBD: 2022 four-star forward Jordan Walsh
– Game thread – Highlights
TBD: 2023 four-star forward Brandon Gardner
– Game thread – Highlights
TBD: 2023 four-star guard Bryson Warren
– Game thread – Highlights

Analysis

To keep everyone on the same page, even if you disagree, I’ll establish a projected roster (with no additional commits) for after next season:

PG: Wendell Green, Zep Jasper
SG: KD Johnson*, Devan Cambridge
SF: Chris Moore
PF: Jaylin Williams 
C: Walker Kessler*, Dylan Cardwell, Babatunde Akinngbola, 

I think Auburn loses Allen Flanigan and Jabari Smith to the draft next season. Flanigan didn’t test the waters this season and his dad is an assistant coach at Auburn, so maybe he stays. Walker Kessler and KD Johnson are two more players who I imagine will test the waters next season and potentially leave.

Recruiting wise, Auburn is after several top tier forwards who could also replace Smith next season, or Williams in the future. If Auburn lands Jarace Walker, the position is in one and done hands again. If Auburn doesn’t, Williams starts and takes care of business. Either way, landing a forward who can be a starter down the line and provide immediate depth will be a target. (In addition to the transfer portal, of course) 

Potential multi-year forwards:
Dillon Mitchell
Joyful Hawkins 
Chauncey Wiggins

Replacing Flanigan seems like another in-house job that Cambridge and/or Moore are capable of. I think it’s possible to see Cambridge move to and start at the 2 (or Moore move to and start at the 4) in a perfect world for both of them.

Shooting guard is also an area of potential concern. Whether or not Auburn lands Cruz, Johnson has a pro future ahead of him, Sills is now gone, Cambridge and Moore haven’t shown everything needed to start at the 2 and Jasper only has two years of eligibility. The transfer portal (and college basketball in general) has been guard-heavy and Auburn has plenty of offers out to top 100 caliber guards in 2023, so playing the portal could be the move for 2022. If not, finding a few guards in the 60-150 range could be crucial. 

Tre Donaldson could be one of those guards. Per source, Donaldson is exploring options to play a single season of just basketball at Auburn. Donaldson is also a four-star safety with an Auburn football offer. Donaldson hasn’t committed anywhere, but this could be something to watch if he chooses Auburn.

In 2023, I think Auburn could be in need of a big class with several immediate contributors, especially at guard. Auburn has laid the groundwork for this to a be a program class. Even if the Tigers land multiple five stars, I expect the 2023 class will be deep and full of top 150-caliber players.

Here’s the priority board that I created for all classes:

2023 Kanaan Carlyle – I think Carlyle will be a high priority due to how i see Auburn’s roster shaking out and seemingly early mutual interest. More of a combo-guard, Samir-like kind of guy, Carlyle is a lock down defender who can play 1 or 2 in college and will take over some games by scoring. He would play alongside Wendell if he’s still around or has the potential take over for him. He’s from Milton, Georgia, a city north of Atlanta in an area Auburn has invested heavily in over recent cycles, and plays AAU with fellow five-star target Isaiah Collier, Cade Philips and others.

2022 Zion Cruz – Cruz is an elite prospect at guard. The 6-5 five-star said he is comfortable playing point guard or shooting guard, and has a tight handle and vision necessary to play point guard and the scoring skills necessary to be an elite secondary playmaker and lead scorer. If Auburn loses KD Johnson to next year’s draft, the importance of Cruz would skyrocket for Auburn. His versatility and size would make him a great addition for Auburn either way. I don’t think Cruz is a necessary addition, but I’m a big believer in adding five-star talent to experienced rosters and think Cruz fits at Auburn well for that reason and his skill set.

2022 Jarace Walker – Walker is such a big name that you have to keep him around the top of the list, even if Auburn doesn’t need him with the front court I project them to have in 2022-23. Walker has the most NBA ready body in high school and has played on several loaded AAU and high school teams. If Auburn lands Walker, the Tigers would likely have their third consecutive one and done power forward (and fourth one and done players) following (Isaac Okoro,) JT Thor and Jabari Smith. 

2023 Isaiah Collier – If Auburn gets Carlyle, who I think makes the most sense to be Auburn’s next big Sharife/Scoot-like target, Collier could become more of a possibility. Collier is an great point guard with elite vision. His scoring and shooting is becoming more consistent, which will make him even more of an elite prospect if it continues to improve. I think there’s a chance Collier could blow up to the point of inviting a new list of college and/or pro suitors, so it’s hard for me to predict where he’s at right now.

2022 Nick Smith Jr – Smith is seen as an early (heavy) Kentucky/blue-blood lean, but it looks like Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas are doing their due diligence in case Smith or one of his suitors has a change of heart. Like Cruz, Smith is a great scoring guard. I think he fits more into Auburn’s shooting guard role than point guard role.

Newton/ATL Xpress

Auburn has offered two players at Newton High School early on, and both are also teammates on the ATL Xpress AAU team. Jakai Newton received an Auburn offer June 10, marking his first D1 offer. He’s projected as a four-star, top 100 player. His AAU and high school teammate—Stephon Castle—is a borderline five-star shooting guard. Both are Atlanta-area guards, a position/area combo Auburn has succeeded in more than anyone in recent years, and both visited Auburn for a team camp when Newton was offered. These are two players I think Auburn should have a shot at and who could contribute immediately and down the line. 

2023 Layden Blocker/Bryson Warren – It would be nice to keep the Arkansas ball rolling, whether Auburn gets Smith or not. Blocker and Warren both debuted as top 40 players in their class and both should stay in that range, if not rise. Blocker has already scheduled a visit to Auburn. I don’t think Auburn needs them with the other guards on the board, but Auburn has recruited the Little Rock area (where Blocker and Warren are originally from) as well as anyone since Wes Flanigan joined the staff. Both are high caliber guards.

2022 big man – If Auburn can’t land Walker, I think pulling in another big man could be crucial, especially if Auburn loses two to the 2022 NBA Draft. Sage Tolentino seemed to be that player until he decommitted from Auburn June 21. Joyful Hawkins is a player Auburn has recruited as long as anyone. His recruiting rankings are volatile, but Hawkins is a stretch big man who excels at running the court and enjoys playing defense and protecting the rim. I could see him as a late addition to Auburn 2022’s class depending on where others land. He’s also being recruited by Ole Miss and Xavier and recently picked up an offer from Florida.

Notes:

I think Wendell Green Jr will return for a monster season in his second year at Auburn, so a true point guard isn’t the main focus in the 2022 class. I think taking a multi-year point guard in 2022 will be on the table, and I’m sure Auburn will play the field with the host of five-stars they offered in 2022, but these are the players with established mutual interest in areas Auburn has recruited well who I could see filling the position of an off ball guard/point guard in waiting. I don’t think there’s any indication that Collier and Carlyle will reclassify, but Jayden Lemond was in the 2022 class at one point and is the name to keep an eye on. Auburn was recruiting him when he was an unranked member of the 2022 class.

Auburn’s perfect pre-transfer portal class, in my opinion:

Five-star guard (Zion Cruz)

Five-star forward (Jarace Walker)

Four-star guard* 

Four-star forward*

I think Auburn’s massive success in the transfer portal pushed the Tigers’ “large” class back a year. Not only is it possible Auburn doesn’t need a big class in 2022, Auburn might not have room for it. But like in 2021, a smaller class can give Auburn a chance to focus on its big names. And remember, that generated a commitment from top five Jabari Smith, a top three for top 15 JD Davison and a backup commitment (and subsequent decommitment) from Trey Alexander.

Auburn could be in need of a big freshman class in 2023. Here are some names not yet mentioned to keep in eye on moving forward:

Anthony Robinson III – Experienced guard. Tight handle, good passing and unselfish—even to a fault at times. Teammate of Tre Donaldson Florida High and point guard for the 16U Nightrydas. Donaldson is on the 17U team. 2024 projected five-star Auburn target Jahki Howard is on the 15U team. High level experience.

Kwame Evans Jr – A top five overall player with offers from everyone. Auburn seems unlikely to land Evans, but you can never count this coaching staff out until it’s over.

Cade Phillips – A teammate of Isaiah Collier and Kanaan Carlyle on TSF, Phillips’ stock has blown up this summer. He doesn’t seem like the kind of forward Auburn usually targets, but is he from Alabama and plays with two other big name targets.

Gus Yalden – A.K.A. GusBus A.K.A. Baby Jokic, is a target originally from Wisconsin who Auburn was in early on. Yalden’s recruitment is already national, and he has not publicly scheduled a visit to Auburn, so the two sides may have cooled off.

Gai Chol – A 7-foot center from metro Atlanta, Chol has all of the raw talent necessary to be a dominant player, but he is still putting everything together. Chol plays for a highly competitive private school in Decatur and played on the Game Elite AAU team with Chase Cormier, Scoot Henderson and other Auburn targets.

Simeon Wilcher – Wilcher is a five-star combo guard from New Jersey. Auburn assistant Ira Bowman seems to recruit the area well, and Wilcher was a high school teammate of 2022 Auburn target Jalen Carruth last season. Carruth was an AAU teammate of Joyful Hawkins on the Atlanta Celtics this year. Chances seem slim for Auburn to land Wilcher, but there is some sort of path there.

Mackenzie Mgbako – Another top 10 player in 2023 with an Auburn offer. Mgbako is a national recruit also playing in New Jersey. I wouldn’t count on him committing to Auburn, but Auburn was an early offer here.


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