Former Alabama coach shares failed attempt to sign Charles Barkley
It is obvious how much Auburn University means to former Tiger and NBA legend Charles Barkley. His love for everything orange and blue dates back to his time as a high school student when he was being recruited heavily by sonny smith as well as former Alabama head coach Wimp Sanderson.
Smith and Sanderson had many great battles on the court in the 1980s, but one of Smith’s greatest victories over Sanderson came on the recruiting trail.
In an episode of Southern Hoops, A History of SEC Basketball on SEC Network, Sanderson recalls his attempt to lure Charles Barkley to Tuscaloosa. Apparently, the Leeds native did not see distance as a factor between Auburn and Alabama.
“I’m not recruiting Charles too hard, but my assistant looked at me and said ‘we need to go look at him,” Sanderson said. “I said to (Charles), ‘Charles, you come to a game at Alabama — 7:00 or 1:00 in the afternoon, you’ll be home in an hour, 15 minutes. You go to Auburn, your mother won’t get home until 2, or 3:00 in the morning. The grandmother is in the room adjacent to it but she’s listening to everything going on. She hollers in there and said ‘it’s just as close to Auburn over the mountain!”
In a recent episode of the All The Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Barkley said that choosing Auburn was the best decision he could have made because they gave him the opportunity to play.
“Your number one criteria for when you’re deciding where you’re going to go to college is playing time. If you go, especially if you go way somewhere away, if you don’t get to play, it’s going to be a miserable experience. It’s going to be awful. Your schoolwork is going to suck. You’re going to be homesick. Auburn gave me an opportunity to play. I got to play right away as a freshman. It was three good years, and I loved it.”
Barkley played in 1,073 professional games over a 16-year NBA career. He averaged a double-double over his career, scoring an average of 22.1 points per game and pulling down 11.7 rebounds per contest.
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