When newly hired Auburn coach Tony Barbee claimed his job could become one of the 10 or 15 best in college basketball this weekend, other fans around the SEC probably couldn't help but snicker.
Forget becoming a hoops juggernaut. Football-crazed Auburn has seldom even been relevant in basketball.
Well, despite taking over a program that loses 75 percent of its scoring from this past season's uninspiring 15-17 campaign, Barbee is already backing up his words on the recruiting trail.
First he signed three-star recruit Josh Langford, the state of Alabama's top player in the class of 2010. Then he struck again late last week, landing former NC State commit Luke Cothron, a 6-foot-9 forward ranked No. 45 nationally in the class of 2010 by Rivals.com.
"He really liked how Coach Barbee explained to him the direction the program was going," Cothron's high school coach, DerrickBond, told The Auburn Sports Blog. "He was really impressed with the facilities, the fan base.
"It's just an exciting time down there to be an Auburn Tiger. It's a new direction, a breath of fresh air. Sometimes change is good."
The arrival of Langford and Cothron may not make Auburn an immediate contender even in the woeful SEC West, but it's a sure sign that the program is already trending upward under Barbee. Cothron, a Huntsville Ala. native, chose Auburn over more-established programs like Tennessee, Connecticut and NC State, with Kentucky also showing late interest from the periphery as well.
The challenge of reviving a long-dormant program is a new one for Barbee, who rose to prominence as John Calipari's lead assistant at UMass and Memphis and then built on the success of Billy Gillispie and Doc Sadler at UTEP.
Barbee probably won't be winning too many national recruiting battles just yet, but the key to the early years of his tenure should be convincing top in-state and regional products like Langford and Cothron that Auburn is an up-and-comer.
"Luke gives us a different level of talent," Barbee said in a statement. "He is an immediate difference maker for us along the frontline."