Big Austin Wiley stood out above the rest — but he didn’t celebrate with his award alone.
Wiley was named tournament MVP at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn last week, stepping out to midcourt alone to accept his trophy after Auburn’s strong win over Richmond in the event finals, only to be mobbed by his teammates after, fired up for the senior center and his earning of the recognition.
They all know what a long road it’s been for Wiley.
He’s standing tall again.
Wiley averaged 16 points and 10.5 rebounds through Auburn’s two wins at the Barclays Center in New York last week, flexing his muscle and showing the talent that once tabbed him as a five-star signee for Auburn and a touted pro prospect.
Auburn returns to the court Thursday at home against Furman. There, Wiley will have his chance to show a little bit more of the power that Bruce Pearl knows is still inside of him.
“I am thrilled for Austin Wiley,” Pearl said last Tuesday after the game, on the Auburn Sports Network’s radio broadcast.
So were his teammates.
“I think the reason, it speaks for itself,” Pearl also said. “They value the big fellow.”
Wiley battled injury for much of last season, after sitting out the 2017-18 season amid an NCAA investigation.
His roar in full form Tuesday scored him 18 points as he pulled down eight rebounds in the Tigers’ 79-65 trouncing of Richmond in the Legends Classic championship game. Auburn played two games there in New York in the home of the Brooklyn Nets. The night before, last Monday, he recorded a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds in the semifinals during an 84-59 win over New Mexico.
For that effort, this week, he was also named SEC Player of the Week.
He’s the first Auburn center to win SEC Player of the Week since Mamadou N’Diaye.
“I was hoping that he would get the MVP,” Pearl said, before explaining just what that string of performances means for Wiley. “You certainly could’ve given it to Samir Doughty, and he would’ve been absolutely as deserving. But I can tell you, Samir wouldn’t have it any other way, in the sense that Austin has been plagued by injuries and just, you know, should’ve finished his career a year or two ago at Auburn and had an opportunity to play in the NBA — but for injuries and a few other things, you know, it got sidetracked.
“And his attitude, and his effort, and his energy and everything has been just phenomenal.”
Wiley is averaging 10.7 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game this season, through Auburn’s 7-0 start. The Tigers moved up four spots to No. 14 in the latest AP Top 25 released on Monday.
His double-double against New Mexico was his second of the season. He scored 13 points and pulled down 10 boards in Auburn’s win over Colgate on Nov. 18.