While the results on the court haven’t been pretty in Bruce Pearl’s first two years at Auburn, the results on the recruiting trail have been.
Pearl’s first full recruiting class at Auburn ranked 15th in the country per 247 Sports. His 2016 recruiting class ranked 25th, and 4th in the SEC. And it included a five-star recruit.
Mustapha Heron may not be the best incoming recruit in the SEC (pick any of Kentucky’s five freshmen for that honor), but he might be the most important player for his team in 2016-17. The 6’5”, 215-pound freshman from Sacred Heart Prep in Waterbury, CT, could emerge as the go-to guy for an improving Auburn team this season.
247 Sports ranked Heron as a five-star recruit and the #23 recruit in the country. Rivals likewise considers him a five-star recruit and the #19 recruit in the country. Finally, ESPN ranks him #25 in the country and also gives him the five-star designation. He has a good lefty shooting stroke and has the length and athleticism to be a plus defender on the perimeter.
How does he fit on the roster? For an Auburn team that’s won nine SEC games in the past two seasons, there’s really no question that Heron is going to play — the only questions are where and how much. But those questions are a bit complicated because of the presence of senior guard T.J. Dunans, who missed most of last season due to injury but played well when healthy.
The most obvious solution would be to use a three-guard offense, with Heron and Dunans playing on the wings and senior transfer Ronnie Johnson at the point. That would allow fellow freshman Danjel Purifoy and sophomore Horace Spencer to start up front. It’s a bit of an undersized lineup, but that group would also be talented and athletic, and Heron has enough length to defend most threes in the SEC so Auburn wouldn’t be sacrificing much on the defensive end by going with this alignment.
Again, there’s really no question that Heron is going to play a significant role for Auburn in 2016-17. And if he performs well, he’s one of the frontrunners for Freshman of the Year.