In addition to the three early commitments from high school seniors, the Tigers are expected to sign a junior college freshman, 6-8, 200-pound Kenny Gabriel, who is currently at Paris, Tex., Junior College.
Gabriel is expected to transfer to Auburn for the 2009-2010 season with four years to play three seasons. He originally signed out of United Faith Christian Academy in Charlotte, N.C., and was scheduled to be a part of the 2008 Auburn signee class, but wasn't qualified in time to enroll for classes at Auburn in August. He has since qualified and is expected to be on the AU campus next summer.
When he signed with Auburn in November of 2007, Gabriel chose the Tigers over Miami, UNC-Charlotte, South Carolina, Winthrop, East Carolina, UNC-Wilmington and others after averaging 17 points and eight rebounds as a junior.
Gabriel improved his numbers as a senior when he averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Lebo's three other commitments for the early signing period are high school seniors including highly-regarded 6-5, 202 guard Andre Malone, who is coming off a very impressive summer on the AAU circuit. He will play at South Atlanta High School this season after transferring from North Clayton High in College Park, Ga., where he averaged 22 points and eight rebounds as a junior.
Malone, who is ranked as the number 25 shooting guard nationally by Scout.com, says he chose Auburn over Georgia, Kansas State, Michigan, South Carolina and Xavier. "I really like the coaches at Auburn," he says. "I had a good time on my official visit and I am looking forward to playing for Coach Lebo."
While Malone was an early commitment, 6-10, 220-pound Robert Chubb was a very early one, picking the Tigers in September of 2007 while attending McIntosh High in Peachtree City. He averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds there as a junior, but will play this season at Montverde Academy, a private school hoops power near Orlando.
Chubb, who plays AAU ball with Malone on the Atlanta Celtics, says he is looking forward to getting to Auburn next season as an improved player. "I decided to transfer to Montverde to help me prepare for college because the competition is so strong here. I have good big men to work against in practice every day and we will travel around the country to play strong teams."
In September, the Tigers added a third high school senior to the signee class with Earnest Ross announcing he was committed to the Tigers. The 6-5, 215-pound guard from Panther Creek High in Cary, N.C., picked the Tigers over South Florida, Colorado, UNC-Wilmington and others. He averaged 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists as a junior.
Ross says he picked the Tigers because he "loves" the coaching staff and "family atmosphere" at Auburn.
Fortner is expected to sign one of her stronger classes this week with two guards, a forward and a center coming on board. Each of the players has been heavily recruited, especially 5-8 point guard Morgan Toles, the daughter of former University of Tennessee and NFL football player Alvin Toles. Known as a strong defensive player with exceptional quickness, she averaged 14 points and 4.5 assists as a junior at Sandy Creek High in Tyrone, Ga. Prior to playing at Sandy Creek, she was a star player at St. Pius X in Atlanta.
"I really like the players and coaches at Auburn," says Toles, who was a standout at an AU summer basketball camp. She had offers from colleges around the country before selecting the Tigers and is a player who is expected to immediately challenge for a starting spot in college.
Blanche Alverson, a 6-3 forward, is another heavily recruited player expected to sign with the Tigers. She averaged 15.8 points and 7.7 rebounds as a junior for Buford, Ga., High School. She has a strong inside and outside game. An athlete who grew up in a Auburn with family connections to Auburn, she says that she is excited about her decision to play for the Tigers.
Pascale "P.J." West is a 6-8 center from Troup County High in LaGrange, Ga., who committed to Auburn after standing out in a summer camp at Auburn. Still growing, the daughter of former NBA player Wally West was 6-7 when she committed to Auburn earlier this year. She says she picked the Tigers because she likes the players, coaches and the campus atmosphere. West says she picked Auburn over Georgia, Georgia Tech and other colleges.
Nicolle Thomas, a 5-8 guard from Colquitt County High in Moultrie, Ga., says picking Auburn was an easy choice. "I have been going to camps at Auburn since the summer when I was going into the ninth grade and Auburn is where my heart is," she says. "Coach Fortner told me she really liked me and I needed to come back to camp every summer and I have been doing that."
Thomas has played a variety of positions, but projects as a two-guard in college. Athletic with excellent quickness, she averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots as a junior. She also is a standout performer for the Georgia Blazers AAU team and says she picked the Tigers over FSU, Indiana, Arkansas and other colleges.