After being unceremoniously booted from the NCAA Tournament by the Miami Hurricanes, the Auburn Tigers ended their 2022 season with a lot more questions than answers.
By the looks of it, Bruce Pearl is going to lose his two best players, Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler, to the NBA Draft. Smith is a potential top lottery pick in this year's draft, with Kessler slowly climbing to the middle of the first round in recent mock drafts.
For Auburn basketball, the hole left by the SEC Freshman of the Year in Smith and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in Kessler would be hard to fill for any team, but for Auburn, losing both at the same time is massively problematic.
But, before Pearl and the Tigers had time to search for a replacement, a five-star recruit fell into their lap.
Five-Star Recruit Yohan Traore Commits to Auburn
War Eagle ?? pic.twitter.com/Cqe6jPiWxM
— Yohan Traore (@traore_yohan) March 31, 2022
Yohan Traore, the No. 6 overall prospect in the country, is a five-star recruit out of Glendale Dream City Christian in Arizona who had previously committed to LSU. However, following LSU's dismissal of head coach Will Wade amidst possible NCAA violations, Traore committed in the weeks following the news. Auburn was the next school on his list, and the 6-foot-10 big man wasted no time in announcing his school change.
Traore is the third high-profile high school player to commit to Auburn, joining a recruiting class headlined by three-star point guard Tre Donaldson and four-star combo guard Chance Westry. Prior to the news of Traore choosing to play college basketball for Aubrun, the Tigers recruiting class was ranked 34th by 247Sports, well behind schools like Michigan, Gonzaga, Texas Tech, North Carolina and SEC rivals in Arkansas and Alabama. With their first five-star recruit on the books, Auburn is surely to rise up through the ranks.
Traore Speaks on How Pearl Swayed Him
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"I like Bruce Pearl," Traore said to On3. "I think he's a great coach with experience with players at their four position, like Chuma Okeke, Isaac Okoro, JT Thor, and this year, Jabari, so I think they will be able to develop my game."
"There was a family atmosphere (at Auburn). The players were cool too. Every day they're going to push me to be the best. I think it's going to be a great place and I trust the coaches."
When asked what goals he had in mind for his time at Auburn, Traore had no hesitation.
"Win games and win March Madness."
And what did he have to say to Tigers fans?
"I'm going to do everything I can to make the team better. I'm willing to do anything."
After a season that felt like it should have ended in a Final Four appearance, it was hard for some Auburn fans to imagine screaming "War Eagle" victoriously without Smith and Kessler. Now? Next year cannot come soon enough.