Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn
Head coach Bruce Pearl has already locked up a top 10 recruiting class and may be adding more, as the Tigers remain in the mix for uncommitted five-star prospects Jalen Green and Greg Brown. However, no matter who else may sign with Auburn, Cooper is the guy that will be in charge of making everything work.
The 6-foot, 160-pounder is a highly touted prospect in his own right as a five-star recruit ranked No. 19 in the country in the 247sports Composite. Offensively, he can do everything. He’s an elite passer that’s extremely quick and smart, but he’s also a gifted scorer that can fill it up inside and out – and he has a number of crafty finishes around the rim. Cooper’s defense is limited a bit because of his size, yet his speed and competitiveness can make him a factor on that end as well.
That skill set is a perfect fit in Auburn’s system, as does his pass-first mentality. The other players in Pearl’s heralded class are scorers more than distributors (Green and Brown fit this mold as well), and no returning player averaged more than 0.6 assists per game last season.
Cooper is the only one who has the ability to run the show at a high level and, with Auburn losing their top six contributors from last year’s team (I’m going to assume projected top-five pick Isaac Okoro stays in the draft), he’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot.
Pearl has readily compared Cooper to Jared Harper, who helped lead Auburn to the Final Four in 2019, and raved about his future point guard when he signed in November.
“We told you that Jared Harper was going to be worth the price of admission, and you could say that again when it comes to Sharife Cooper. He’s special, he’s unique, he’s rare. A great competitor. All he wants to do is win. Makes everybody else around him better.”
Both are smaller point guards with similar playing styles, and we’ve already seen how successful that can be in this system (Cooper’s better than Harper was at this stage, too). Expect Cooper to be one of the nation’s most impactful players in 2020-21.