In August, Auburn secured a verbal commitment from its most highly regarded recruit since Bruce Pearl became the program’s head coach last year (shooting guard Mustapha Heron). A little more than a month later, the Tigers added a prospect who potentially could make an even bigger impact when he arrives on the Plains. Center Austin Wiley announced on Twitter Saturday morning that he will be “furthering my education and basketball career” at Auburn.
Wiley revealed a list of eight schools in August: Alabama, Auburn, Duke, Florida, Kansas, LSU, Mississippi State and UAB. Joining the Tigers brought the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his parents. Wiley’s mother, Vickie Orr Wiley, was named the SEC player of the year in 1988 and his father, Aubrey, led the conference in rebounding as a senior in 1994. In addition, Aubrey and current Auburn assistant Chuck Person are cousins.
Wiley also had visited Auburn unofficially several times. When he pledged to the Tigers on Saturday, Wiley reportedly was on the way to the school’s campus for another visit. “Bruce Pearl is building something special here at a place my family loves,” Wiley said Saturday, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. “I met Coach Pearl not long after he got the job and he told me I was his top priority. That meant a lot to hear that from him.”
At 6'10", 240 pounds, Wiley has drawn praise for his ability to rebound and contest shots in the paint. As a sophomore at Spain Park High in Hoover, Ala., last season, Wiley averaged 19 points, 12.2 rebounds and around four blocks per game, and was named the Birmingham News Metro Player of the Year. Rivals.com currently ranks Wiley the No. 20 player in the class of 2017. Below are highlights of Wiley playing with his grassroots program, the Alabama Challenge, on the EYBL circuit this year.
Wiley’s decision continues an impressive run on the recruiting trail for Pearl. After landing four four-star prospects in its 2015 class, ranked 10th in the country by Rivals.com, Auburn earned commitments from two top-60 prospects in 2016 in point guard Jared Harper and Heron. Wiley is the Tigers’ first pledge for 2017, but Auburn’s recent success—and Wiley’s vow that “I will be a recruiter”—suggests it may not be long before he’s joined by another heralded player.
Wiley won’t begin his college career for more than two years, but his decision is yet another encouraging turn for a program that has not posted a winning record in SEC play since 2009 or reached the NCAA tournament since 2003. The Tigers are compiling talent that could get them there in short order.