How Bruce Pearl reset Auburn basketball's frontcourt with Johni Broome, Yohan Traore

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

AUBURN — Bruce Pearl couldn't hear what Johni Broome said at first. So the Auburn basketball coach guessed.

Broome called the Auburn basketball coach moments before posting an Instagram live video Saturday in which the former Morehead State big man would announce his transfer destination. It was between Auburn and Florida – coached by Pearl's protégé, Todd Golden.

Broome spoke quietly, almost timidly: "I'm coming to play for you at Auburn."

Only, as Pearl remembers, "I didn't hear that." The 62-year-old coach's hearing is bad, he says. So Pearl cheered into the phone as though Broome had committed, not knowing he actually had. "I think he told me something. He could've said Florida, but I didn't hear it. I was assume-selling."

Moments later, Broome announced his commitment publicly, completing Auburn's swift restructuring of a frontcourt that's losing two likely first-round NBA Draft picks.

Broome (6-foot-10) will be a sophomore who adds a low post, back-to-the-basket presence after averaging 16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks at Morehead State. Yohan Traore (6-10) is a five-star freshman with a face-up and perimeter game, once committed to LSU. With them, the four and five labels potentially become meaningless.

"Which one’s more like Jabari? Which one’s more like Walker? It doesn’t matter," Pearl said. "I think (the four and five) are going to be the same position. One's going to trail. One's going to rim-run."

His rebuilding process began with Traore; Auburn recruited him the first time around but had just landed center Walker Kessler out of the transfer portal as decision time approached. Pearl and Traore parted ways amicably.

"We had established enough there," Pearl said.

TRANSFER SEASON: These 3 position groups are Bryan Harsin's transfer portal priorities for Auburn football

FRONTCOURT: Chipped teeth and all, 'Jaylin Williams Day' in March Madness hinted at Auburn basketball's future

When LSU fired Will Wade for cause in March, Traore decommitted. Pearl called "right away," knowing freshman Jabari Smith's draft decision was almost a certainty. Assistant coach Wes Flanigan led Traore's recruitment. Auburn was balancing that with the current team, which was about to start in the NCAA Tournament.

"We knew we were going to know something on Walker within weeks, because the season was ending," Pearl said. "And now by that point, it became clear that Walker going was a real possibility. ... You go from having the best frontline in college basketball to (shrugs)."

Kessler told Pearl he was entering the draft in April, after winning Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. By then, Traore was onboard. Suddenly a second scholarship needed filling.

Enter assistant Steven Pearl, Bruce's son and Auburn's analytics-based transfer portal specialist. He recruited Kessler and Zep Jasper.

The staff determined Broome, who played against Auburn last November, was the best big man in the portal. Steven Pearl got to know Broome's family, but the Tigers targeted others in the meantime. Tennessee transfer Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, a former five-star, visited Auburn.

"You've got to decide who you're going to go on, who you're going to pass on, who you're going to wait on. And we went at (Broome)," Pearl said. "The more I recruited him, the more I liked him. The more I liked him a lot. Not just as a player but as a kid."

Huntley-Hatfield committed to Louisville. Broome's decision process took more time. Bruce Pearl noted the return of Florida's Colin Castleton would make it more difficult for another center to fit in Golden's system.

"I'm starting to lose some other pretty good big kids I think I could've gotten," Pearl said. "Now, am I outsmarting myself?"

It came down to the last two minutes and a call Pearl could barely hear, but the risk paid off.

"I'm so pleased," Pearl said, "and I'm so relieved."

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Bruce Pearl resets Auburn basketball frontcourt with Traore, Broome