Auburn basketball: Upperclassman Jamal Johnson must provide leadership

Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

In this unusual and somewhat unenjoyable Auburn basketball season, Bruce Pearl needs someone on his roster to step up and provide leadership. Jamal Johnson is that guy.

Off to a 1-2 start, the Auburn basketball team needs to find reasons to stay motivated. After a scandal rocked the Alabama basketball program, the Tigers self-imposed a postseason ban for 2020-21 to be proactive in dropping the hammer for what you have to do assume is something very similar.

Bruce Pearl recognizes this season isn’t on his guys, but instead that the failures his men will face are on him:

"“The kids have worked hard,” he said. “It’s not their fault that we’re not very good right now; it would be my fault that we’re not very good right now. But we’ve got so much growing up to do. We’re making so many mistakes out there because we’re young and these guys are going through it for the first time and we’ll see if we can continue to learn and get better.”"

In the wake of losing Sharife Cooper from all of the uncertainty surrounding Pearl’s recruitment efforts for the top member of Auburn’s 2021 class, Pearl is finding an unsung hero in senior Jamal Johnson.

After a quiet opener against St. Joseph’s, Johnson stepped up as one of three players to put up a double-digit scoring effort against the #1 team in the country, Gonzaga. Though he shot just 4/12, it was the fact that he was able to even create so many looks against the stifling Bulldogs defense that showed a considerable amount of moxie from the “old head”.

Against UCF, Johnson clearly earned Pearl’s respect, as the seventh year Auburn basketball coach shouted out his experience in the post-defeat presser:

"“I thought Jamal played really well,” Pearl said. “… This is his fourth year of college basketball now. He’s really my only experienced college player. I think that’s shown.”"

At this point, showing up–even in a loss–is going to make all the difference on the Plains this season. Coach Pearl wants to see it and so does the War Eagle.

We feel good based on Johnson’s post-game comments:

"“I keep talking to everybody, saying next shot, move on to the next play so we can just keep encouraging each other and keep figuring this thing out and we can get it rolling.”"

Hopefully, the Tigers can figure things out this Friday against South Alabama.

ESPN ranks Auburn's 2021 recruiting class #9th. dark. Next