With five seniors on the roster and another open scholarship slot, Jeff Lebo needed to bring in a big 2010 signing class.
The 6th-year Auburn head coach certainly delivered signing four high school and two junior college standouts during the early signing period.
"I think we really helped ourselves in some areas," said Lebo, whose class has been ranked fifth nationally by HoopScoop magazine. "Obviously, we lose a lot of players so this is going to be a big class for us. We lose guys who played a lot for us so we are looking for some immediate impact from this class.
"We feel really good about our class. They come from winning programs and are used to winning. They are tough kids, and you hope that they come in and contribute right away. That is why you recruit them. This is a big class for us. There is no doubt about it."
Signing with Auburn during the early period were Shawn Kemp, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound center from Canton, Ga.; Heath Houston, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward from Powder Springs, Ga.; Jalen Steele, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard from Knoxville, Tenn.; Anthony Salter, a 5-foot-11 point guard from Tallahassee, Fla.; Allen Payne, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound forward from Cincinnati, Ohio; and Adrian Forbes, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward from Spanish Town, Jamaica.
Kemp attends Hargrave Military Academy where he scored 21 points, making 9-of-12 shots from the field in a recent scrimmage against prep school power Oak Hill Academy.
Playing his high school basketball at Cherokee County High in Powder Springs, Ga., he is the son of former NBA All-Star Shawn Kemp. He averaged 12 points and eight rebounds and had 78 blocks as a senior for Cherokee County in 2008-09.
"Shawn Kemp has tremendous upside," said Lebo."He is 6-foot-10, can shoot the ball from the perimeter and has a legitimate low post game. Shawn is a kid who has really unlimited potential to go certainly to the next level with his play. He can block shots. He can run. He has size. He is already 6-foot-10 and long at Hargrave this year and can really, really run the floor.
"He is just on the first step of becoming a very good basketball player. He will bring tremendous inside help to us."
Houston is a four-year starter at Hillview High and is a face-up power forward with 20-foot range. He plans to major in aerospace engineering.
"Heath Houston is a very strong inside player," said Lebo. "He is kind of an undersized player who can play the four and the three for us. He is big, strong, has a tremendous upside and is explosive around the basket area."
Steele averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and almost five assists per game as a junior last year in leading Knoxville Fulton High to back-to-back state championships as he was named the Class 2A State Tournament MVP in 2009. Steele, who made 100 three-pointers last season, has led Fulton to a 58-8 record the last two seasons.
"Jalen Steele is a kid who is a winner," said Lebo. "He has won two state championships already. He is one of the top perimeter shooters in the country. He will be a guy with the loss of Tay Waller, who is going to be able to come in and shoot the ball from the perimeter for us. He has been very well coached in high school and will be able to make the transition to college very well."
Salter is ranked as the No. 3 overall junior college player in the country by Rivals' JUCO Junction on Nov. 12. He was an All-Region selection last year as a freshman at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he averaged 15.4 points and 3.8 assists while shooting 48 percent from the field.
He was a Class 4A All-State selection at Tallahassee (Fla.) Rickards High after averaging 19 points, six assists and four rebounds per game as a senior in 2007-08.
"Anthony Salter may be the top junior college point guard in the country," said Lebo. "He is very good in transition. He is very quick, can score, can shoot the three and is very good at the mid-range stop and pop area.
"He played at Iowa Western, which is one of the top junior college programs in the country. He is from Tallahassee (Fla.) so he is excited about coming back close to home."
Payne averaged 15 points and eight rebounds at Cincinnati's Winton Woods High School as a junior last season.
"Allen Payne is a small forward, and he has a very good upside," said Lebo. "He's trying to make the transition from a post guy in high school to a perimeter-type player in college. He has good athleticism on the wing and can run and play inside and out."
Forbes, who is ranked as the No. 10 overall junior college player in the country by Rivals' JUCO Junction on Nov. 12, averaged 6.3 points and 5.4 rebounds last season as a freshman at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas. He also played for the Jamaican National Team over the summer.
"Adrian Forbes is a big junior college player who has a lot of potential and has played for a very good junior college program," said Lebo. "He is big and strong at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds to help us inside."