There’s a lot of talk about the future of Auburn basketball and Sharife Cooper. Now, instead of talking about if Cooper will play, it’s if he’ll be a one-and-done and what Auburn would do next season without him.
Cooper might not be a one-and-done. His first two stat lines looked the part, but he cooled off against Kentucky and would be in a loaded draft class if he declares this season. Cooper is also fighting against his measurements and needs to improve his perimeter shooting.
It’s impossible not to think about Cooper turning pro, especially with what he would bring to Auburn as a sophomore, because Cooper has already shown off his handle, speed and vision at a level that would make him a first round pick if he was taller, and it still might.
However, Auburn’s point guard position is not worth worrying about.
Thanks to the success of Jared Harper and Bruce Pearl’s other points guards, and Cooper reminding viewers about how easy it is for a talented guard to dominate in Auburn’s system, Auburn looks like a prime spot for a talented guard whenever Cooper leaves.
The roster Cooper is playing around is expected to stay intact and will add a top five recruit (Jabari Smith) and a top 100 shooting guard (Trey Alexander) this offseason, making Auburn’s future point guard role even more attractive.
Auburn should also be in a position to win a lot of games and generate a lot of exposure next season. Add that to the selling points.
Here’s who the staff might target, if Cooper is a one-and-done.
- High school ranks – much of the 2021 class is wrapping up. Targets capable of playing point guard—Tyty Washington, Frankie Collins and others—chose other schools. Hunter Sallis has an Auburn offer, but doesn’t seem to have much interest. With 2021 being a “weaker” high school class, it wouldn’t be surprising for players from 2022’s loaded class to eye reclassifications. Maybe Auburn pushes for someone such as Scoot Henderson (who has an Auburn prediction from The Jboy Show and from Rivals) to reclassify. Zion Cruz, Nick Smith Jr, Dillion Hunter and Derrian Ford are all guards in 2022’s top 50 with Auburn offers, although not all are point guards. Auburn has also had luck with diamonds in the rough in recent years, but next season’s roster might demand a point guard who’s ready to contribute at a high level from day one.
- The NCAA is implementing a one-time transfer rule, which would give any transfer immediate eligibility and will likely cause a lot of transfers this offseason. Auburn’s success with transfers guards might make that a logical route. Like with any target, Auburn will have a great roster for a point guard to take over as a selling point.
Auburn will need a point guard capable of playing fast and unselfish next season, because the Tigers look ready to compete on the national level. The increase in talent, exposure and experience could entice Cooper to return and play himself into a higher pick in next season’s weaker draft.
The chance at winning rings at Auburn, a school he clearly likes who also has three players Cooper played high school or AAU with, might also convince the freshman phenom to return.
If he declares, Cooper going from “too small” to “first round pick” in 15 games will pay huge dividends for Auburn in the short term and long term.
Auburn is best with Sharife Cooper. That’s obvious. Either way, Auburn will have a team capable of contending next season.