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Hoops krootin’: Chris Denson commits, etc.

New Auburn point guard Chris Denson. The "S" may just stands for "starter."

Ever since Jared Steele and Anthony Salter–the only guards in Auburn’s 2010 basketball recruiting class–asked for and received their releases from their Auburn letter of intent, there’s been one big question hovering over Tony Barbee’s remake of Auburn hoops: who’s going to play point guard?

Until today, there were two possible answers,  one of them being the sole PG on the roster, sophomore walk-on Josh Wallace. The other was that Barbee would ask Frankie Sullivan (who does have some experience at the point from high school) to take over the role. Now, though, there’s a third possibility: Chris Denson.

Denson, a 6-2, 180-pound point from Shaw High School outside of Columbus (Ga.), committed to Auburn today and should sign within the week. Despite his 24 points-per-game average at Shaw, the gurus aren’t all that high on him; Rivals lists him as an unranked three-star and Scout doesn’t even bother giving him stars at all. ESPN ranks him the No. 62 point guard in his class but does have some nice things to say:

Denson is a left-handed speed demon that can create off the dribble and has proven to be a dynamic scorer with the basketball … He shoots it well enough to force his defender to stay close out to he 3-point arc, but excels at attacking of the bounce and has a solid mid-range game or can finish at the rim. He has a tendency to force the issue at times which leads to turnovers, but should adjust quickly … His superior quickness enables him to pick up full court which should translate to him being a good defender at the college level.

There’s not much in Denson’s offer sheet to dispute the guru assessment; though there’s rumors Florida had some interest, the only confirmed offers for Shaw until Auburn’s were from mid-majors like Buffalo, UNC-Greensboro, and Northeastern. Here’s guessing Denson is the first and last Barbee recruit at Auburn with this kind of recruiting profile.

But of course all of that doesn’t mean much, because Auburn needs a point guard, Barbee’s convinced Denson can do the job (or at the very least, that no one would do it better), and after all it was just a few weeks ago I was complaining that one of Auburn’s big problems under Lebo was not finding the local diamonds in the rough that went on to big mid-major things. It’s good news to hear that we’ll have a shot at finding one of thsoe diamonds at Auburn’s greatest position of need.

However, there’s one downside to Denson’s signing: Auburn is oversigned. The NCAA limit in basketball is 13 scholarships, there’s 7 players left over from last year’s roster, and bringing Denson aboard means Auburn’s signed 7 in this class. 7 + 7 > 13.

I’m withholding judgment until we see how the situation resolves itself. If one of Auburn’s signees fails to qualify, no harm done. If one of Auburn’s players has already decided it’s not going to work out with Barbee and wants to transfer, fine. If Barbee has decided he’s simply going to bring in the players he wants and that one of the current 7 scholarship athletes (none of whom have even entered their junior year yet) will be told point-blank to look for other options and no longer be able to attend Auburn–the approach taken by Barbee’s mentor when he took over the Kentucky job–that is not fine.

We’ll see what happens. Until it all shakes out, saying anything more would be a rush to judgment in either direction. Barbee may know something we don’t. (Please?) But I’m nervous.

Nowhere to go but up. Exactly how much ground Auburn has to make up for in recruiting gets hammered home by this excellent post at Vandy blog Anchor of Gold, where all 12 2010 SEC hoops classes are ranked. Even with Langford and Cothron, Auburn comes in eighth, thanks to still pulling in only one recruit ranked by Rivals. AofG’s analysis:

Auburn snagged Cothron, their biggest recruit since Korvotney Barber, as well as one of Shawn Kemp’s sons in an effort to dig the Tigers out of the bottom half of the SEC in the near future. Auburn lost four starters to graduation this year, and it stands to reason that all four highly ranked recruits could find rotation minutes almost immediately in Alabama. The class is possibly the Tigers’ best in a decade.

And it’s still ranked as the eighth-best class in the league! Nowhere to go but up, at least. (In general, I mean. Next year’s class may not have a single player in it, since the roster won’t have a senior.)

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