Zach Allison (above) is a freshman for the Tigers.
The six-foot-two point guard from Pelham, Ala., High School arrived this season as an invited walk-on. With projected starter Tahj Shamsid-Deen expected to be sidelined for about a month with a shoulder injury, the Tigers need help at the point guard position behind starter Kareem Canty.
Two other injured guards are also expected to miss Friday night’s exhibition game vs. Brevard College. Sophomore T.J. Lang suffered a knee sprain and is likely to be out for two weeks. Freshman Bryce Brown has been limited in practice this week with a back problem.
Another freshman guard, Danjel Purifoy, has been practicing, but has not been academically cleared to play. Auburn’s coaches have not said when they expect a final decision will be made on Purifoy’s status.
Canty, who will be making his Auburn debut vs. Brevard College after redshirting last season as a transfer, says it is next man up time for the Tigers at the guard spot. Pearl noted that could very well be Allison, an honorable mention All-State player as a high school senior.
“I’m excited for Zach,” Pearl said. “I really am and I am not worried about it. It is such a great story now. It was a good story before. I walked on at BC (Boston College). I didn’t make it but I couldn’t play, but that’s how I got started and got cut.
“My son (Steven Pearl) walked on at Tennessee and his junior year he was in the regular rotation going all the way to the Elite Eight,” Pearl said.
“Devin Waddell walked on and he is on scholarship and he played in the SEC Tournament,” the coach pointed out.
“When I was out recruiting a year ago, I was looking at some other players and happened to see Zach. He impressed me with how hard he played, how effective he played, his swagger, his confidence, his goldilocks”
Pearl said he mentioned to Allison’s coach that the guard would be welcome to join the Auburn team as a walk-on if he didn’t like the scholarship offers he got from other programs and if he wanted to see if he could succeed at the highest level of college hoops.
“I just planted that seed, but from that point you can’t recruit them, you can’t call them and you can’t have any conversation with them, but he came on came on campus where we could talk to him and he decided to come,” Pearl recalls. “I told him he would have a chance to play. I just didn’t know he would have a chance to play in the first game.”
Allison averaged 16.8 points and 5.2 assists per game as a high school senior while leading his team to a 24-5 record. He averaged 16 oints and 5.0 assists as a junior.
Known to his teammates and coaches as “Sunshine” because of his long, blond hair like a character in the movie Remember the Titans, Canty notes that the walk-on will be able to contribute if called on to play.
“Sunshine is actually good though,” Canty said. “You couldn’t tell if you looked at him, but he is actually good and he is solid. When he feels like playing, he actually gives me a run for my money...and he has an edge to him when he gets pissed. You will see that Friday night.”
Kareem Canty averaged 16.3 points during the 2013-14 season at Marshall University.
Canty is expected to carry a good part of the scoring load this season and that is even more likely for the opener due to the injuries.
Asked what he would like to see happen with his team in the exhibition opener, the transfer from Marshall University said, “Togetherness, composure. Playing in front of the fans and having fun playing together.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CDT at Auburn Arena for the exhibition game vs. the Tigers and Brevard, a Division II team from North Carolina that plays in the South Atlantic Conference.