The 6-8, 220 forward will begin school in Auburn on Tuesday and can start practicing immediately with the team. He'll be eligible for play with the Tigers in December of 2005 following the end of the fall semester.
"We're excited about Emanuel Willis and his decision to transfer to Auburn," Lebo says. "It really helps us. It gives us some size and athleticism at 6-8, 220 pounds. Emmanuel is physical and is going to be a guy that can play inside and he's also going to be a guy that can step out. He can run the floor.
"He'll come and sit for a year and be eligible in December of next year," Lebo notes. "He'll really have close to three years, two and three-quarter years. He's a guy we can work with and prepare and get ready for next year."
Emanuel Willis is shown in action for the Trojans. He averaged 1.5 points and 1.0 rebound in 6.8 minutes of action per game in four of USC's first six contests this season..
A native of Mendenhall, Miss., Willis was one of the South's top prospects after a senior season that saw him score 21 points per game and also pull down 14 rebounds and add six blocks per contest. Recruited at that time by Auburn as well as Cincinnati, South Carolina, Virginia and USC, he was forced to attend Hargrave Military in Chatham, Virginia for a year before choosing the Trojans. Coming out of Hargrave Willis was rated the number 16 post-grad player in the country by Scout.com.
While at USC he didn't do much in his one semester of time on the West Coast. With Coach Henry Bibby getting fired early in December and Rick Majerus taking the job and then quitting before he started, Willis began looking around again at schools and Auburn was one he began considering. After taking a visit to Auburn over the weekend of Jan. 9 he decided on the Tigers.
He will begin classes Tuesday and must sit out a full year before joining the team. That gives him half of next season and two full years of eligibility with the Tigers and gives Lebo the big and athletic player he desperately needs at Auburn.
Scout.com's national basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep has had the opportunity to watch Willis play several times over the years and says that the Tigers will be adding another good body inside to go along with signees Joey Cameron, Josh Dollard and Korvotney Barber.
"Emanuel Willis plays with energy and he's going to be a nice compliment alongside Barber," Telep says. "Together you have two guys who will rebound and are ultra athletic. Auburn's future frontline is coming along nicely with Cameron, Willis and Barber in the mix."
Willis says he is glad he made the move to Auburn. "I made a great decision this time," he says. "I am back in the South, and I am in a family atmosphere. I am only four hours from home, and my family will be able to come to the games and see me play. That is always a plus for me.
"Coach Lebo is more than a coach to me. He is a teacher and he can be a friend. All coaches don't have that. I feel like I can have a great relationship with Coach Lebo on and off the court as well as Coach (Brandon) Johnson and Coach (John) Cooper. It is a very good coaching staff, and I am just ready to go."