Bruce Pearl has made a pair of additions to the Auburn support team for the upcoming season, including the addition of the former Tigers star.
Tigers added Jeff Gray and Bryant Smith to the coaching staff as graduate assistant and student assistant, respectively. For Smith, it’s a return to the program as he helped secure his first SEC regular season title in 1999.
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Smith played for Auburn from 1996 to 1999 and was captain of the team under former Tigers coach Cliff Ellis. During the 1998-99 season, Smith helped lift Auburn to the league title in the regular season, a record total of 29-4 and a national ranking of No. 2 – at the time the highest rating in the program’s history, which had just been surpassed. Last season’s team, which climbed to #1 in the AP Poll.
“We are very excited to welcome Bryant Smith back to our program,” Pearl said in a statement. “It is important to add another former player to our squad, who knows what it means to be an Auburn player. He has also been part of the teams that have made history throughout his playing career in the Plains. He will be an invaluable mentor to our players after they were once where they are.”
As a junior, Smith led Auburn in three key stats while averaging his career best 13.3 points and 2.4 steals per game. He also fired 50.6 percent from the field that season. He finished his career in Auburn as a member of the 1000 Career Point Club and ranks 30th on the Tigers all-time scoring list with 1,087 points.
Smith ranks fourth in the school’s single-season record list with a score of 67. He played 121 games during his Auburn career, making 77 front yard games. After leaving Auburn, Smith spent 14 seasons playing professionally abroad before returning to his hometown, Huntsville, and founding the Winning Foundation, a nonprofit that provides assistance to disadvantaged and at-risk children.
He is now back at school in Auburn to finish his degree in Sociology.
“The chance to get back to our players is very modest,” Smith said. “I hope to use my experiences, as a university and professional, to help continue to shape them into great players and even better Auburn guys.”
Gray, a former four-year player and two-year captain at Boston’s Emerson College, joined Pearl’s staff as a graduate assistant after playing abroad in the Israeli Basketball Premier League with Hapoel Eilat during the 2019-20 season as well as in Israel. National Basketball Association with Iron Kiryat Ata in 2020-21 and Migdal HaEmek in 2021-22.
At Emerson, Gray was a first-team selection for the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference twice and was the school’s best student athlete in 2018 and 2019.
“Jeff Gray brings high energy, a bright, young mind and fresh, professional playing experience to our programme,” said Pearl. “He has a tireless work ethic and has become the leading shooter in college.”
Gray finished his college career with 1,662 points and won the NEWMAC Championship with the Lions. As a top guard and starting point guard, he averaged 20.4 points per game while helping Emerson advance to the NCAA Division III Championship.
“I am delighted to be a part of this program and the elite coaching staff,” Gray said. “I’ve followed Coach Pearl and Auburn men’s basketball for years. I couldn’t think of a better way to move on to this next chapter of my career. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to learn from the best of the best in college basketball.”
Tom Green is the Auburn Beat correspondent for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed