Auburn, Ala.--With his third season as Auburn's head basketball coach in the books, Bruce Pearl said he is looking forward to the help he is expecting from a pair of high school seniors and a transfer who will be eligible for the 2017-18 campaign.
With center Austin Wiley already graduating early and joining the AU team in December, Pearl is eager to get the rest of his 2017 signing class ready to compete for the Tigers.
“We’ve got three good kids coming,” he said, noting that one of the trio has been practicing with the team since joining the team last summer.
“Desean Murray is a young man that is sitting out this year,” Pearl said. “He transferred from Presbyterian and he is a six-foot-four, undersized power forward. He is going to play small forward for us. He is probably our toughest player.”
Desean Murray is shown at an Auburn practice.
The coach said that despite his height, he expects Murray to be a productive rebounder and scorer around the basket. Murray started 31 games and averaged 20.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.7 assists while playing 29.1 minutes per game as a sophomore.
Incoming freshman Chuma Okeke is a four-star recruit from Westlake High School in Atlanta, who is expected to be a power forward for the Tigers.
“There is a good chance that Chuma will be named player of the year in the state of Georgia,” Pearl said. “Pound for pound he is as good as any player there was in his class. The six-foot-eight and 230-pound forward can do it all. He can defend, rebound and score.
“A state champion as a junior, they did not make it to the state championship this year,” said Pearl, who added, “He’s just an unbelievably productive player.”
Okeke and fellow signee Davion Mitchell, a guard from Liberty County High in Hinesville, Ga., are both rated four star prospects.
“Davion will come in and replace Ronnie Johnson, a fifth-year senior, and will compete with Jared Harper for the starting point guard position,” Pearl said of the 6-1, 185-pounder. “He is built like a running back.”
The coach predicts that Mitchell’s defensive ability could help his team. “If I tell him you just stay in front of this kid, he will stay in front of him. That’s a defensive ability that’s almost lost now.”
Auburn must replace a trio of seniors from the 2016-17 team that finished with an 18-14 record. The group includes post player LaRon Smith, guard T.J. Dunans and Johnson, who transferred to AU for one season from the University of Houston. Smith was a graduate transfer from Bethune-Cookman.