March 12, 2012

Meyer: 'Foundation' class for Auburn

The season didn't end the way Auburn coach Tony Barbee envisioned, no question. Auburn lost seven of their last nine games, including a 14 point loss in the SEC Tournament First Round.

Barbee and Auburn also are dealing with the cloud of the allegations surrounding guard Varez Ward.

But this weekend provided a glimpse into what might be a good start to a bright future for Auburn basketball.

Three Tigers' signees played for state championships on Friday and Saturday. Shooting guard Shaquille Johnson and forward Jordon Granger won, while Rivals100 shooting guard Jordan Price fell short. With the addition of JUCO center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and point guard Brian Greene Jr., Barbee has assembled one of Auburn's most solid and complete classes in years.

"I think it has the potential to be a foundation class building up to a tournament team," Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said. "You will have to look back because there are some unknowns, but it has that potential."

Price finished the season averaging around 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists. He scored 17 points in a state final loss, and Meyer believes the 6-foot-5 Price is the most SEC-ready prospect of the bunch.

"In Price, you're going to get a great scorer, that's what he's known for," Meyer said. "He really has a knack for scoring and it will translate into the SEC. He's college ready, big, physical kid. He's playing at the 17-under level for a long time. He can score, any time a guy knows how to score and is physical, that's the type guy who can help right away."

The 6-foot-4 Johnson, widely known as the nation's best dunker, showed versatility in his state final. Johnson led Milton to the championship by scoring 23 points, grabbing six rebounds, and blocking three shots. He had a season-high seven dunks in the game, and Meyer thinks that athletic ability will be tough to keep off the court.

"Shaquille Johnson is a tremendous athlete so you have great potential even though he hasn't developed everything he needs to do," said Meyer. "An exceptional, elite type athlete. He might be so athletic they have to have him in the lineup."

The 6-foot-8 Granger and the 6-foot-11 Dixon-Tatum will bring size and length that Auburn's current roster simply doesn't have. With the graduation of Kenny Gabriel and Adrian Forbes, Auburn only returns Rob Chubb at 6-foot-10, and Willy Kouassi at 6-foot-10 at the forward and center positions.

Both are primarily low post players, and Meyer believes the Tigers' two signees, especially Granger, possess flexibility in their game.

"I see size, length on the wings," Meyer said.

Granger dominated the Missouri state final scoring 26 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Greene Jr. is Auburn's lone committed prospect that hasn't signed. Greene Jr. is a Chicago-native guard that his coach at IMG Academy believes will bring incredible toughness to Auburn's team.

With Price, Barbee has signed a four-star prospect in both recruiting classes since his arrival. Kouassi was the first in the 2011 class. For the class of 2012, only five players ranked ahead of Price are currently destined for the SEC with three to Kentucky, one to Tennessee, and one to Florida.

Auburn may have finished as the No. 10 team in the league this past season, but Meyer sees the Auburn recruiting class on a much different level.

"It's in the upper half of the SEC. Auburn's class was right up there in the top five in recruiting," he said. "Barbee is known as a strong recruiter and people expected him to upgrade the recruiting at Auburn. I don't know if it's a surprise, but it's significant and there's a lot of teams in the SEC behind Auburn in recruiting."

Meyer sees Kentucky, Florida, and Mississippi State as the only schools with better classes.

Looking ahead to 2013, Meyer sees an opportunity for Barbee in the Memphis-area where he holds many connections from his days as an assistant at Memphis.

Prospects like Robert Hubbs, Austin Nichols, Nick King, and Markel Crawford make the area talent rich for next cycle. Crawford hails from Melrose, the same school 2011 signee Cedrick McAfee graduated from, with Barbee already checking out Crawford this winter in person.

The state of Alabama has two top prospects to keep an eye on in Decatur, Ala.'s Detrick Mostella and Greensboro, Ala.'s Jimmie Taylor.

The question is, can Barbee keep it up?

"I think the potential is there," said Meyer. "He's a very strong recruiter, there's a lot of talent in the southeast. A lot of recruiting is about momentum, momentum is building, and it wouldn't surprise me if Auburn is in that upper half."



 

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