Bruce Pearl, Auburn Tigers have Navigated Transfer Portal Masterfully

Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers have adapted to the new era of college basketball as well as anyone in the country.
Bruce Pearl led the Auburn Tigers to an SEC Tournament Championship in 2024.
Bruce Pearl led the Auburn Tigers to an SEC Tournament Championship in 2024. / Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA
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It would not be a crazy statement to insinuate that the landscape of college sports has changed more off the court over the last five years then it did in the previous 100. 

One of the biggest reasons for this has been the implantation of the transfer portal (and NIL). Even going back less than 15 years, most college coaches spent the entire offseason on the road recruiting high school talent from all over the country. 

Auburn Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl has been a prime example of someone who shows that the transfer portal is equally as important as high school recruiting. The current Tiger squad shows just that. Johni Broome was a 3-star recruit who committed to Morehead State. Flash forward 4 years and Broome is a high-level draft prospect that is one of the best returning players in the SEC. 

Walker Kessler was a backup for UNC before transferring to Auburn and becoming SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Now Kessler is the staring center for the Utah Jazz. 

The truth is that Coach Pearl has been on the forefront of recognizing and obtaining talent out of the transfer portal, as well as building a culture that generates growth on and off the court.

“Our kids want to stay; Auburn kids want to stay at Auburn. We don’t have as many guys leaving as other schools do,” Pearl said at his press conference last week.

Pearl spoke about not only the outlook of the team this season, but the importance of the portal.

“Sometimes coach and I need to go look at a high school player and you also have to evaluate the competition, there is a lot of factors. When you get them out of the portal you see them against really good competition, and I think you can make really good evaluations. We haven’t missed on one transfer, not one.”

Pearl brought in another transfer class stacked full of potential, consisting of the big power forward in Ja’Heim Hudson (SMU) as well as the guard combo of Miles Kelly (Georgia Tech) and JP Pegues (Furman). 

Pegues is someone who will mesh into the lineup very well and is expected to become the starting point guard. He was extremely consistent at Furman averaging 18 ppg and almost 5 assists. Not to mention he also shot 88% at the free throw line. 

Kelly will be competing for starting minutes and has the ability to be someone who gets a lot of looks on this team. Pearl attributes that to his shot-making ability, “Miles has the chance to be one of the best shooters in our league.”

Hudson is someone who Pearl and the coaching staff see as a guy next in line who will take a reduced role this season and are expecting him to have a heavier load in the 2025-2026 year. 

“We weren’t going to invest in a guaranteed starter. Johni, Dylan and Cheney are seniors, it’s their team. But I’m really happy with Ja’Heim, because he’s competing with them.”

Even with the addition of a whole new aspect of the game, Auburn has been a team who can roll with the punches of changing rosters every year and constantly put out a high-quality product. 

“The transfer portal has helped up every single year, we’ve upgraded our roster every single year since this thing has been open, and I think the common denominator is continuing to recruit really good kids.

Christian Alvis