By LARRY VAUGHT
Despite winning only its third Southeastern Conference title in school history last year, Auburn has “unfinished business” this season according to coach Bruce Pearl.
The veteran coach had no trouble explaining why a team that was picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC but won a league title would have unfinished business this year.
He does have two players — center Austin Wiley and guard Danjel Purifoy — who were ineligible last year. He also has point guard Jared Harper, who tested the NBA waters before returning to Auburn as did shooting guard Bryce Brown.
“I watched (Harper) in some NBA workout situations and I’ve seen him night in and night out. He’s smaller against anybody he goes up against and often times he wins his position, he wins his battle. He won it most nights in the SEC and yet he’s overlooked because he’s 5–10 or 5-11,” Pearl said during last week’s SEC coaches teleconference.
“Bryce Brown, same thing. He’s been overlooked his whole career. He’s hungry. He feels like he has unfinished business. Neither one of those guys got drafted.”
That got Pearl on a roll.
“Austin Wiley, didn’t play last year, got his eligibility back, is in good standing, tested the (NBA) waters, was told he wasn’t going to be a first-round pick and I think he made a very wise decision to get into the first round next year. He’s got unfinished business,” Pearl said.
“Danjel Purifoy, also ineligible last year, also has unfinished business. (Guard) Samir Doughty sat out, he redshirted, so you follow what I’m saying? I think there are a lot of guys on our roster that are hungry.
“(Guard) Malik Dunbar would like to try to have a different role on this team. (Forward) Chuma Okeke is a sophomore, did a phenomenal job, won us a lot of games, fit in really well and is now going to play a more dominant role. (Forward) Anfernee McLemore’s best Division I offers were the Ivy League and MIT, so he’s hungry and has unfinished business.”
Auburn was 26-8 last season and made the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2003.