AUBURN, Alabama — As he did with KD Johnson at Georgia in 2021, Bruce Pearl is familiar with one of the transfer portal’s main players because of his matchup with Auburn.
Pearl called Morehead State transfer Johnny Brohm a top target on the Tigers’ board this season, and Auburn got a first look at his talent in last year’s season opener. Facing off against Walker Kessler at center, Broome, at 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, was a “big focus,” according to Auburn’s scouting report.
“He’s very talented,” Kesler, now in the NBA with the Utah Jazz, said of Broome’s report before Auburn’s practice this week. “Going into that game, I realized how good he is and how much talent he has. Banger, very nice touch around the edges, left.
“He will do great things for Auburn.”
Broome, Auburn’s only transfer this offseason, is expected to be Kesler’s quick replacement at the No. 5 spot this season. He’s been on campus all summer and will take the stage with his new teammates for the first time this week during Auburn’s overseas tour of Israel.
“The tempo is so fast, the game is so fast,” Broom told reporters Thursday before Auburn’s practice. “A lot more physical. I’d say the biggest thing is just the communication level. It’s a lot of talking. You’ve got to talk to yourself and your teammates about everything. And Bruce and the guys, we just create a family atmosphere. Everyone gets along. The whole coaching staff has energy and energy every day. They bring.”
Broome, the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year last season, averaged 16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game. He finished the season with 23 double-doubles and shot 55.5% from the floor.
His blocks-per-game clip was No. 3 in college basketball, ahead of reigning National Defensive Player of the Year Kesler. While watching Kesler’s highlights, Broom loved how much freedom he was able to play defensively — and that’s one of the reasons Auburn made him an attractive option on the transfer market.
“Defensively, they’re allowing him to impact the game,” Broome said of Kesler. “And that’s why I wanted to see it. He impacted the game defensively, and offensively, they allowed him to space the floor and shoot the 3 – a lot of pick-and-rolls, a lot of lob opportunities. They let him play, and he seems to be having fun out there. So that’s what I saw, and that’s why I wanted to join.
Broome chose Auburn over Florida, marking Pearl’s first win in the SEC under former assistant Todd Golden.
Last season in the Ohio Valley Conference, Broome, a former three-star recruit from Tampa, was consistently dominant around the basket; He ranked fourth in college basketball with 23 double-doubles on the season and scored in double figures twice all year.
“He’s hard on himself,” Pearl said. “Like he did at Morehead State and in the OVC, he likes to come out here and dominate every day. But now he’s playing at a higher level. He’s perfect. … Will he continue to buy into it like he did at that level? He’s working on it.
“He’s quick, so he can guard a lot of positions. A large can that can be changed out and kept, is very good. …Has an established mid-range jumper, and is working on extending his 3-ball.
Broom said that, in early sessions, he formed a strong bond with Auburn’s experienced backcourt trio: Wendell Green Jr., KD Johnson and Zip Jasper. Kessler was an All-American last year not only because of his defensive ability, but because of his big guards feeding him the ball on pick-and-rolls or layups. Broom is a different player, of course, with more refined back-to-the-basket skills on offense, but that frontcourt-backcourt chemistry still needs to be there in 2022-23 to chase down Auburn. SEC Championship again.
“Even if it’s 6:30 in the morning, just walking into the gym with these guys and seeing the kind of shots they make gives me confidence,” Broome said of Auburn’s backcourt.
Auburn’s first game in Israel since Israel U-20 National Team Tuesday (noon CST, SEC Network).
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