Central Park Hoops Stars Pick Barbee's Tigers

Auburn received big news on the basketball recruiting front with a pair of talented, highly-recruited prospects announcing they will sign with Auburn.

Birmingham, Ala.--Two of the top prospects in the state of Alabama and the country for the 2011 men's basketball signee class told Inside the Auburn Tigers on Wednesday night that they are done with recruiting and will sign with Coach Tony Barbee's Auburn team.

Willy Kouassi, a six-foot-nine post player, and Bernard Marena, a six-foot-seven forward, are teammates at Central Park Christian and will continue to play together in college. Both players have been recruited by colleges around the country.

Kouassi, who is ranked as the No. 14 center prospect for the 2011 signee class by Scout.com, said that the opportunity to play with his friend Marena in college was one of the big factors in his decision as were several other reasons.

"I like that Auburn has my major, agricultural economics, and I really like the Coach Barbee and his coaching staff," Kouassi says.

Kouassi notes that he had a good feeling about Auburn after attending an elite camp there in June and the feeling grew when he spent the day on campus with his coach, Darien Knox, last week.

Kouassi points out the opportunity to play early at Auburn factored into his decision as well as the chance to play at Auburn's new state-of-the-art facility, which is in the final stages of being completed for the 2010-2011 season.

Kouassi said he feels great about his decision and so does Marena. "It is very exciting," says Marena, who like Kouassi is a strong student.

Bernard Marena

Marena, who has a perfect 4.0 grade point average, says, "I am interested in studying engineering and Auburn has one of the best schools of engineering so that is a big factor.

"I also really like the coaches at Auburn and I feel comfortable there," Marena says. "I like the family feeling at Auburn, which is something I was looking for in my college choice. I am excited about my decision and I am looking forward to playing at Auburn.

"I hope to be able to play as a freshman in college and I see a great opportunity to do that for Coach Barbee at Auburn," he adds.

Coach Knox says that the players, who are originally from the Ivory Coast, are quality people as well as outstanding basketball players.

"Both are yes sir, no sir type of kids who are a real joy to be around and coach," Knox says. "I feel like they are part of my family. I think this is a great opportunity at Auburn for them and they are really excited about their decisions." He adds that Auburn assistant coach Tony Madlock, Barbee and the entire staff did a good job of making the prospects know they are an important piece of the puzzle to rebuilding the Auburn program.

Both are hard working students in the classroom and on the court they are good players already and still improving, Knox notes.

Coming off a strong performance in the AAU season this summer, Marena, who is rated as a three-star forward by Scout.com, handles the ball very well for a big man and can play guard as well as both forward spots.

Marena chose Auburn over UAB, Arkansas, Wake Forest, Xavier, Virginia and others. Kouassi chose the Tigers over Georgia, Alabama, UAB, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Arkansas-Little-Rock, Memphis, Murray State, Missouri, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Pitt, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Tennessee, Tulane, Wake Forest, Western Kentucky, UAB, UTEP, Vanderbilt an others.

Both players say they are happy they have made their college choice and they plan to help Auburn recruit other players to join them on the team.

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