AUBURN — The Southeastern Conference coaches shut out all Auburn players from any individual awards and from the all-conference first team.
Auburn, which shared the conference regular season championship with Tennessee, did not have a single player on an eight-player All-SEC first team that was released Tuesday morning.
“I’m disappointed for the first time since … 1956 was when they started putting on first- and second-team All-SEC (teams) and there’s never been a regular season champion that didn’t have a player on the first team until this year,” Pearl said Tuesday afternoon at a news conference.
The All-SEC second team had junior guard Bryce Brown and sophomore guard Jared Harper. Auburn’s leading scorer Mustapha Heron, who averaged 16.6 points per game and 5.5 rebounds in his sophomore season, was not among the 16 players selected to either the first or second-team honors.
“Pretty much sums up our season to this point,” Pearl wrote in a Twitter message Tuesday afternoon. “Mustapha averaged 17.1 Pts ranked 5th, 6th FT %, 10th steals, Top 25 Rebs and leads a Championship Team. Really?”
The Associated Press put Brown on its five-player first team, while Harper and Heron made the five-player second team. The Tigers didn’t not receive the player, coach or newcomer awards. The AP teams are compiled from a vote of selected writers and media members who cover the league.
Heron, who has led the Tigers in scoring each of his first two seasons, sent out a tweet of “LOL” shortly after the coaches’ awards were announced by the league office.
“He outscored 11 of them SEC honorees, and there are terrific players named. All of them are worthy and all of them are deserving,” Pearl said. “He outrebounded nine of those guys, and he out-won 12 of them. So from the standpoint of that, I’m disappointed he couldn’t make his way on one of the teams.”
When asked Tuesday afternoon if he felt there was 16 players in the league better than Heron, Brown was clear in his response.
“No. That doesn’t make sense,” Brown said. “Mustapha definitely should’ve been on there. That’s not even a question.”
Brown, who passed the 1,000-point total in his Auburn career Saturday, said the one surprise for him when he saw the released All-SEC lists was Heron’s name was not to be found.
“I don’t know if I feel disrespected but maybe we’re not as appreciated as other programs,” Harper said. “Auburn hasn’t been a great program as of late so maybe this will be the start of respect for Auburn going on for years to come.”
Pearl’s program has been in the spotlight since former assistant coach Chuck Person was among coaches involved with four programs arrested in September as part of the FBI probe into college basketball. As part of Auburn’s internal investigation into the men’s basketball program, Pearl has lost two of arguably his better players (Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy) and two staff members to paid administrative leave.
“We don’t like he’s the villain of the league,” Brown said when asked if this voting was a message to Pearl through his Auburn players. “At the end of the day, that’s my coach of the year.”
Brown said “probably” Pearl’s past NCAA violations, which included a show-cause penalty and ultimately led to his dismissal from Tennessee, led to him not winning SEC Coach of the Year honors.
Pearl said he didn’t feel “at all” that the totality of the ballots from the other 13 coaches in the league had to do with any animosity toward him or his program.
“First of all, I voted for Rick Barnes for coach of the year. They were picked 13th and he did an unbelievable job,” Pearl said. “And I voted for Grant Williams as player of the year. Keep in mind as coaches we don’t vote for our own players and I got it right both times. I nailed it.”