Avery Johnson and Bruce Pearl. Both fiery, both energetic, both willing to do anything to spark their programs into power amidst the realm of football that lies over the state of Alabama.
It was a year ago that Pearl, the 55-year-old PR dream of a coach, was putting the pieces together after Tony Barbee was fired. Fast forward to now, when Johnson, the former NBA player, NBA coach and ESPN analyst, was tasked by the Alabama Crimson Tide to do the same.
"I think Alabama has a well rounded recruiting class [with] point guard in Ingram, two wings with athleticism at 6'4 and 6'5 along with a true inside presence in Donta' Hall," said Kirven Lang, co-founder of Bamamixtape.com. "Overall, Avery Johnson and staff did a great job even though they got started fairly late."
Crimson Tide fans rejoiced this past Monday as Eubanks, a 6'5" shooting guard out of Delray Beach, Florida, committed to their Tide after a blitzed recruitment since Johnson's hiring. A shooter and an athletic wing, Eubanks will bring excitement to Alabama's Coleman Coliseum; excitement that fans haven't had the ability to partake in for years.
Auburn Tigers fans did the same. After an unexpected but extraordinary run in the SEC men's basketball tournament this past spring in Nashville, commitments from some of the top high school players in the country have ignited a basketball fan base. Danjel Purifoy, a 6'7" Alabama native that finished his high school career at Virginia's Hargrave Military Academy, signed his letter of intent to the Tigers. He, along with Pennsylvania native Horace Spencer, have catapulted this Auburn class into the top-25 for the first time--maybe ever.
The jubilation and the elation for basketball in the "Heart of Dixie" is palpable now with two figures like Pearl and Johnson. And, as you know with football, the rivalry is as intense as ever. After Eubanks' announcement, tweets from Auburn fans saying their class was better flew across my timeline. Tweets from Alabama fans jawing back were sent in response.
"Alabama and Auburn are definite on the come up in SEC basketball," said Jerry Meyer, director of basketball scouting at 247sports.com. "Both head coaches have infused new energy into the programs."
Passion in Alabama and Auburn, we've seen this before--in football. This is basketball, though, but this is still rivalry. So, I decided to compare these two classes by posing four player-specific questions to a multitude of analysts across the recruiting landscape. Take a look to see what they had to say and then decide for yourself.
1. Who has the best player between the two classes?
"Horace Spencer is my top ranked prospect out of the 2015 Alabama and Auburn recruits. He is a top level athlete who plays with a great motor and has a developing offensive game." ~ Jerry Meyer
2. Whose class has the best fit for their program?
"That's a tough call. I think Danjel Purifoy and Horace Spencer will fit in perfectly in Pearl's system, but there is a glaring need for Dazon Ingram and Kobie Eubanks at Alabama. I can see those four being successful, but if I had to choose, I would go with Eubanks. He's a big scorer that a lot of Alabama fans will like." ~ Garrett Tucker of Hoopseen.com
3. Which coach captured the state with their class?
"Avery Johnson did a great job retaining Dazon Ingram and then securing Kobie Eubanks. Besides getting talented players, it gives Alabama recruiting momentum going into its focus on the 2016 class." ~ Jerry Meyer
4. Which class will make the most immediate impact?
"Kobie Eubanks is definitely a quality pickup this late in the game and he's definitely a guy that can help Alabama in the perimeter scoring department next year. He's physically ready to compete in the SEC and not only is he physically ready, but he's pretty advanced in the scoring department. He is a bucket getter, he's a guy that can really score some points." ~ Evan Daniels of Scout.com on Bamasportsradio.com