Auburn is reportedly in the lead for the country’s most sought-after transfer, Georgetown’s Mac McClung, as of Tuesday according to sources close to the situation.
Along with Auburn, other schools showing interest are Memphis, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas and Wake Forest. Memphis is reportedly the second frontrunner, as of now.
McClung, who was the Hoyas’ leading scorer last season, unexpectedly decided to enter his name into the transfer portal last week after pulling his name out of the NBA Draft to maintain his NCAA eligibility.
“It was a number of different events that made me feel I had no choice but to transfer from Georgetown,” McClung said in a recent interview with ESPN. “I really wanted to stay, but things throughout my career made me realize that I couldn’t. … I’m looking for a place I can call home. A place I can be a part of a family and help them succeed.”
Last season, the high-flying guard averaged 15.7 points a game for head coach Patrick Ewing and was a budding star in the Hoyas’ offense before a foot injury cut his season short. As a freshman, he averaged just over 13 points a game.
“Mac was an integral piece of our program, and when he let me know his decision I was disappointed,” Ewing said in a statement. “But he needs to do what’s best for him. I want to wish him luck in his future endeavors. Moving forward, our focus is the core that we have coming back and our incoming class.”
Now, where does he fit in at Auburn? Bruce Pearl’s team needs scoring. The Tigers are losing all four players from last year’s team that averaged above 10 points per game (Samir Doughty, Isaac Okoro, J’Von McCormick and Austin Wiley), not to mention the next two highest (Danjel Purifoy and Anfernee McLemore), who averaged just under double digits. That leaves a massive hole.
To remedy this, Pearl has signed one of the best recruiting classes in the program’s history as well as the program’s highest-rated recruit to date in five-star guard Sharife Cooper, and there could still be more to come by way of a transfer or Jonathan Kuminga.
But, Auburn isn’t Kentucky. You can’t expect this group of true freshman to carry the load in the Southeastern Conference, a conference that has propelled to the top of the ranks in college basketball in recent years. There are serious question marks at the wing positions about who is ready to take that next step as a reliable, go-to scorer. Cooper will almost certainly be running the show at the point guard position but he will need to have a guard to facilitate to in the backcourt, so that he isn’t carrying the weight of an entire team.
So, who fills that scoring guard role? The Tigers have a number of guards returning (Jamal Johnson, Tyrell Jones, Devan Cambridge, Allen Flanigan to name a few), but not one averaged over five points a game. Justin Powell and J.T. Thor, depending on how Pearl chooses to use him, are both versatile freshmen that could be tried at either of the wings, but who knows if either of them are ready to make that jump immediately. Cambridge and Flanigan would be the leading candidates if the season started tomorrow, but both were fairly one-dimensional role players on the offensive end last season.
This is where McClung would fit nicely in Pearl’s offense, as a scoring complement for Cooper. McClung has the experience and scoring prowess to come in and average double digits right away, having done so for back t0 back years in the Big East. The 6-foot-2 guard is a walking highlight-reel and could be leaned on to go get a basket in pressure situations, and can score in a variety of ways. I don’t see anyone else on Auburn’s roster with as polished of an offensive skill set and I think McClung, if he were to choose Auburn, would flourish in Pearl’s system.
Now, there is still a long way to go in this recruitment. McClung’s agent told the Washington Post that NBA teams’ feedback to him in this process was that they wanted to see him more as a facilitator, since he played primarily off the ball at Georgetown. That’s why I’m still skeptical that he eventually lands at Auburn because of McClung’s desire to be at the point guard position, with Cooper coming in next season. Nonetheless, Auburn is in the hunt and there are other teams pursuing him that are set at that position as well.
“Being more of a point guard role, etc. I’m not saying he couldn’t have gotten that at Georgetown, but he didn’t showcase that at Georgetown,” McClung’s agent Daniel Hazan said. “He didn’t get the opportunity really to showcase that.”
McClung will need to file a waiver to play immediately in 2020-21.