Impact of Mustapha’s decision

May 14, 2018 By Cameron Caldwell

Mustapha Heron (5)Auburn basketball vs Florida on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Gainesville, Fla.Photo by Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics

 

Big news has come for the Auburn basketball program.

Mustapha Heron is currently working out for NBA scouts, and although he previously stated he intended to hire an agent, he has yet to do so. Prospective players have until May 30 to withdraw their names from the draft process.

Heron has worked out with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers so far. Austin Wiley is Auburn’s only former player invited to the NBA combine, which will hold 80 players. This was expected, but it is still intriguing to see how these players are turning out.

Two other Auburn ballers who submitted their names to the draft but didn’t hire an agent, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown recently worked out with the Atlanta Hawks, and reports are that it went well.

As far as Heron goes, he has a very good skill set, but is clearly a score-first wing player. He has been Auburn’s leading scorer over the last two seasons, but has been known to hold onto the ball too long on various possessions.

The Tigers have a very talented roster coming back next season, and if Heron returns it will only upgrade this team. There are some things Mustapha can work on, though, to take his game and this team to the next level.

Bruce Pearl has established a very fun and entertaining style of basketball on The Plains. If Mustapha Heron can focus on becoming a better passer and more willing ball distributor, this will be a huge boost for the Tigers.

It is still not guaranteed that Heron will be back in Auburn to play another season as the possibility of signing with an NBA team as an undrafted free-agent, or quite possibly going overseas to play professionally still remain options. The goal for these kids is always to get to the NBA as fast as possible, and one could argue that coming back to Auburn could be the best option for Heron in that regard.

Josh Vitale, Auburn beat writer for oanow.com revealed that Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com reported that Heron himself said that he is “50/50 on returning to Auburn,” which is actually very promising news considering Heron was previously matter-of-fact about hiring an agent and not returning to the plains. When it’s all said and done,  Mustapha will obviously make the decision that’s best for him and his family.

Looking at Auburn’s current layout of the roster, Heron will hold down the small forward position as he has done the last two years. He is a great scorer and even though can be shot-happy, his ability to get hot from the floor is uncanny.

Heron fits in well with Pearl’s system, and really ignites the team and gets the crowd going with his ability to go hard to the basket. He has been a beloved figure for Auburn basketball the last two seasons, so it goes without saying that the Auburn family would welcome him back with open arms.

If the Waterbury, Connecticut product finds an opportunity on the professional level, Auburn will need to have guys step in and fill his shoes. Danjel Purifoy looks to be the guy that would assume the small forward role, but he will be suspended the first nine games next season. Chuma Okeke could also slide up to that spot and play, as he was very versatile in his freshman campaign. Another to guy to look out for in that spot is VCU transfer Samir Doughty, who sat out last season, but is an athletic slashing wing who can light it up from deep.

These are great options if the Tigers don’t have Staph, but getting him back would be tremendous for the team.

Mustapha Heron was Auburn’s first 5-star recruit to sign with the school, and was an essential player in helping lead Auburn to an SEC Championship. The expectations for Auburn basketball next season are through the roof as several experts project the Tigers to be a Top Ten team even with the presumption that Heron wasn’t returning, so if he does in fact decide to come back to the plains, it’ll give Auburn’s star-studded roster even more star power.