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Bruce Pearl celebrates end of sanctions with three commitments

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger
Auburn's new men's basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, autographs Clay Fleming's shirt Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in Auburn, Ala
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Auburn's new men's basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, autographs Clay Fleming's shirt Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

It hasn't taken long for new Auburn coach Bruce Pearl to capitalize on the expiration of the three-year NCAA penalty forbidding him from making contact with recruits.

The day before Pearl's sanctions ended Saturday at midnight, he received a commitment from small forward Danjel Purifoy, Rivals.com's No. 80 recruit in the class of 2015. Two more coveted prospects pledged to come to Auburn soon after Pearl could talk to them for the first time — power forward Horace Spencer, Rivals.com's No. 73 recruit in the Class of 2015, and shooting guard T.J. Dunans, one of the nation's elite junior college players.

The flurry of commitments is the latest sign that the hiring of Pearl is helping Auburn's long-ignored basketball program emerge from irrelevance. 

Auburn hasn't finished with a winning record since 2009, hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2003 and hasn't produced an NBA draft pick since 2001. It may take Pearl a couple years to end those streaks, but his immediate success on the recruiting trail suggests it won't be much longer. 

In addition to his three commitments this past weekend, Pearl had already made a splash on the transfer market. Antoine Mason, the nation's second-leading scorer at Niagara this past season, announced in June he will play his final collegiate season at Auburn this year. Standout Marshall transfer Kareem Canty will also transfer to Auburn, though he will have to sit out a year before playing for the Tigers.

It's no surprise Pearl has managed to produce recruiting success at a school unaccustomed to competing for elite basketball prospects. He has already proven he can energize the basketball program at a football school, having led Tennessee to six straight NCAA tournaments before being fired in 2011 as a result of committing recruiting violations and lying about them to NCAA investigators.

Tennessee's loss now will be Auburn's gain.

More than 50 Auburn students greeted Pearl outside Auburn arena shortly before midnight on Saturday night to celebrate the end of his show-cause penalty. Pearl then went to work, either visiting in person with recruits or calling them on the phone before finally calling it a night well after 3 a.m.

The results were immediate. Auburn's long-struggling basketball program now has three significant commitments and more momentum than it has enjoyed at any point in at least a decade.  

For more Auburn news, visit AuburnSports.com.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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