Auburn basketball's all-time starting 5 could score with anybody
Editor’s note: SDS is selecting an all-time starting 5 for every SEC team, all part of our expanded coverage of March Madness.
Auburn is known for having exceptional athletes, maybe even more so than exceptional teams. Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas and Charles Barkley might comprise the best three-sport combination for one school in the SEC, and that’s but a glimpse of that talent that has called The Plains home.
For this exercise, we’re considering only Auburn basketball players to select an all-time starting 5. We’re imagining these payers at their college peaks, and team success is largely irrelevant because the individual takes precedence over the team.
A fair warning: We have to do some creative imagining with positions, as Auburn’s best players basically all play shooting guard or forward, but nevertheless, this would be a pretty impressive squad if they ever took the court.
So without further delay, let’s get started.
PG: Doc Robinson (1997-2000)
So here’s the thing. Eddie Johnson is better than Doc Robinson, and normally, I’d make an exception and just list him as a PG. But he’s not a PG, and this list already needs to take some liberties to fit everyone in, so it’s time to put a foot down and select an actual point guard.
Doc Robinson, who is third in program history with 568 assists, would be the perfect floor general to manage all the personalities on this team and lead them to victory. The other players are relentless scorers and rebounders, but without a cool-handed leader like Robinson to organize them, they would pretty much be the modern OKC Thunder.
Robinson was at the controls of Auburn’s famous 1998-99 team, their best in program history. That Tigers squad lost only four games on their way to Auburn’s third-ever Sweet 16, and Robinson led the way with 11.5 points and 5 assists per game. In college basketball, scheme often wins over pure talent, and Robinson proved that he could head a team of four players who averaged more than 11 points per game.
SG: John Mengelt (1969-71)
John Mengelt scored in ways that no Tiger has, or probably ever will. He leads the Tigers all-time with 24.8 points per game and has marks of 40-point games (8), 30-point games (22), and consecutive 20-point games (10). In addition to his career average, Mengelt has the record for single-season scoring average with 28.4 per game in his senior season, and his 60-point effort against Alabama is the best single-game total in Tigers history.
That senior version of Mengelt from 1970-71 is the player we’d want. He scored efficiently at a 48.4 percent rate and was a surprisingly good rebounder for his 6-2 height, averaging 4.2 that season and 4.8 boards per game for his career.
Mengelt was exceptionally tough, despite his size, and he even played linebacker on Auburn’s football team during his time on The Plains. That led to his nickname of “Crash” since he was always throwing his body at the opposition to get tough buckets inside. He would be a perfect pairing with this physical team that would thrive off second-chance points.
SF: Mike Mitchell (1975-78)
Now we get into the cluster of Auburn forwards who would become a three-headed monster on the Tigers’ all-time team. First is Mike Mitchell, the only player on the list to make four All-SEC team selections.
Mitchell is second on Auburn’s career scoring list with 2,123 points.
Mitchell was consistently excellent, averaging 20.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds during his career. The best of the bunch was easily his senior season in 1977-78 where he averaged 24.9 points on 52 percent shooting and 8.9 rebounds per game and narrowly lost out to Reggie King for the SEC Player of the Year.
Mitchell was known for his high-extending jumper, which he used in the post and in the midrange game with deadly accuracy. He was long and athletic, allowing him to elevate that jumper over most opponents.
PF: Chuck Person (1983-86)
Chuck “The Rifleman” Person makes a strong case as Auburn’s best player of all time, despite how heretical that sounds. Person is Auburn’s all-time leading scorer with 2,311 points, and he did it was startling consistency. The 6-8 forward had 108 games of double-digit scoring, including an amazing 68 in a row. Where Mengelt had the upper-tier scoring games, no player in Auburn history was as reliable as Person, who notched 20+ points 63 times.
Chuck and his brother Wesley were known for their silky jump shots, hence the nickname. This was especially unique for a big man at the time, when the “stretch four” was unheard of, and bigs were expected to rebound and bang around in the paint.
It’d be an interesting debate to see who would have Auburn’s scoring title if Mitchell played the same number of games as Person, but for the purpose of this exercise, we just need one season. Person’s junior year in 1984-85 was his masterpiece, setting career-highs in points per game (22.0), field goal percentage (54.4), rebounds (8.9) and assists (2.0).
C: Charles Barkley (1982-84)
The Round Mound of Rebound, Charles Barkley, is one of the most beloved athletes in the SEC, and his jovial personality, as well as his physical style of play, have endeared him to fans across the country. While at Auburn, he and the aforementioned Persons started an Auburn run of four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances that would help to legitimize the Tigers program.
Barkley certainly did his part, earning the SEC Player of the Year award in his junior (and final) season. He averaged 15.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and had a scary 63.8 percent field goal percentage that season. Barkley was like a running back playing basketball – a bowling ball of destruction that disrupted defenses and skillfully cleaned up misses.
The biggest testament to this is that he fits best as the center of this team, despite claiming himself that he’s been measured at as short as 6-4. Barkley was so tough and physical that he averaged more rebounds that Person, in every year of his career.
Despite matching up with players that were six to eight inches taller than him, Sir Charles was unstoppable – so much so that he holds Auburn’s career field goal percentage record at 62.6 percent, and his average of 9.6 career rebounds per game is tied for third all-time at Auburn.
Even more remarkable than Barkley’s college career was his pro career, where he made 11 All-Star teams, 11 All-NBA teams, won an MVP in 1992-93, and led the league with an insane 14.6 rebounds per game in 1986-87. Let’s run that back – he was somewhere between 6-4 and 6-6 and he led the NBA with 14.6 rebounds per game.
Yeah, I’d feel pretty good about Barkley as the center of Auburn’s all-time team.