Auburn was one of the first programs to show an interest in McEachern center Babatunde Akingbola during his freshman season, and the Tigers were the only ones who recruited him on a regular basis.
The loyalty Bruce Pearl and the Auburn coaching staff showed played a major role in Akingbola’s decision to commit to the Tigers and become Auburn’s first player in the class of 2019.
“I’m very, very, very happy,” said Akingbola, a junior who picked Auburn over Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Tulane, Memphis and South Florida. “That was a great decision for me. I feel like it’s a big deal for me. (Auburn) is a great society and a great place to be. They have been coming to my games. They’ve been showing interest, and I’ve been making sure that I’m good.”
While the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Akingbola is not known for scoring a bunch of points, he is a force on the defensive end as one of the state’s strongest shot blockers. Scouting reports say he is athletic for his size, and his 7-foot, 4-inch wing span also makes an impact.
A four-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Akingbola is the nation’s 25th-rated power forward and eighth-best player in Georgia for the class of 2019.
“They stay in touch. They watched him a lot,” McEachern coach Mike Thompson said of Auburn. “They like a lot of things that he does. I think that has a lot to do with it. I think the best part about the things that he does, is that he’s so athletic to be 6-9. He plays a lot bigger than that. He runs so well and jumps so well and has a good understanding of the defense and how he protects the rim.”
Akingbola is one of four highly recruited McEachern starters, with Isaac Okoro and Jared Jones the state’s No. 2 and No. 10 juniors, respectively, and Sharife Cooper the state’s No. 5-rated sophomore. All have numerous offers from major-conference programs.
Akingbola became the first player to commit to Auburn since former associate head coach Chuck Person was arrested and charged with six counts of federal corruption in September. Wheeler standout E.J. Montogomery had committed to Auburn for its class of 2018, but he reopened his recruiting after Person’s arrest.
Akingbola, though, was unfazed by Auburn’s troubles.
Although the Tigers do not have any recruits for the class of 2018, he is on track to join a rising Auburn program that is 15-1 overall and 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
Akingbola respects Pearl, saying he and Thompson are similar when it comes to a no-nonsense approach to the game. He said Pearl “doesn’t tell you what you want to do. He tells you what you need to do.”