As the 13th seed many predicted Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers, who ended the regular season on a six-game losing streak, would be one and done at Bridgestone Arena. However, with victories over Mississippi State, Texas A&M and LSU the Tigers are still here.
Pearl said that Waddell, a six-foot-five junior walk-on engineering student, is a big reason why. With Cinmeon Bowers in foul trouble and Jordon Granger kicked out of the game for a flagrant 2 technical foul, Auburn needed Waddell to play 19 minutes off the bench and came through with another solid effort.
“We will be short-handed again without Jordon Granger so my engineer, Devin Waddell our secret weapon, he is going to do a great job in the post,” Pearl said as he prepares his Tigers to take on a Kentucky team that walloped Auburn 110-75 at Rupp Arena in February.
During a substitution in the second half of Auburn’s comeback victory, Waddell’s hustle and defense earned him a chest bump and hug from the head coach and handshakes from his teammates.
“That is always a great feeling,” he said of getting praise from the head coach. “I love Coach Pearl.”
Waddell’s defense is a big reason why the Tigers are still playing basketball. On Friday he contributed two rebounds and two assists while defending LSU’s much larger front line. It was a third consecutive productive performance in Nashville for the walk-on.
“We played great team defense,” Waddell said, explaining how the Tigers were able to pull off the upset. “We all made the correct rotations and it was just a great feeling to get that win.”
Waddell said he is not surprised the Tigers have had success at the SEC Tournament. “We just wanted to send our seniors out with the right feeling and we are enjoying the situation right now,” he said. “Coach Pearl told us to pack for five days and that is what I did.”
Auburn is huge underdog to Kentucky for Saturday’s noon CDT semi-final. Waddell said as a competitor he welcomes the challenge. “We are not backing down,” he said. “We are going to play our hearts out.”
The team’s star player, K.T. Harrell, said everybody can count on Waddell to play full speed all the time.
“Devin does a great job of going out there and playing,” said Harrell, who scored 29 points vs. LSU. “He is one of our best defenders. Even though he is a walk-on nobody is punking Devin. He did a great job today.”
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