Basically there were two standing ovations for Austin Wiley before he could play a second. The first one when he ran to the scorer's table, followed by a slightly anti-climatic moment while waiting to enter the game.
The second came when his time finally came on the court, for the first time since March 8, 2017. A full season, a dramatic controversy, a foot injury and many questions later, he came to play.
"I'm sure Austin will tell you, he was just grateful for the response our fans gave him, a standing ovation," Pearl said. "… It could be said that there is a bit of rust in it, but it will help us when it enters the stream a bit."
He was quite rusty, finishing with five points, one rebound and three fouls in 13 minutes for No. 11 Tigers (2-0), who did not need his A game in an 88-66 victory over No. 25 Washington (0 -two).
He had a dunk, but he was also a little careless with two turnovers, and he seemed shy at times. Even in his subsequent offensive moves, including several attempts at hook shots, he did not seem to have the physical presence that is natural with a 6 foot 11, 260 pound frame.
"It's Austin's first game since my sophomore year," said senior Brian Bryce Brown. "That was my last time playing with Austin … It was great to have him back there, just another big body, an extra body that will continue to help us win."
Wiley missed all of last season amid a bribery scandal involving former Auburn associate head coach Chuck Person, who allegedly gave a total of $ 18,500 to Wiley's mothers and the currently ineligible Auburn striker Danjel Purifoy. . The Tigers kept Wiley proactive during the first half of last season, before the NCAA officially declared him ineligible for the entire 2017-18 season.
Wiley did not address the media after the game.
But his colleagues could talk about him. They exchanged comments talking about how much time has passed.
"Austin has not played in a couple of years," Brown said.
"Almost 600 days," added Samir Doughty, somewhat comical since Doughty was not even on the list when the game took place in the SEC 2017 Tournament.
"Yes, almost 600 days," Brown replied, even though it's been a little over 600 days.
Wiley's first contribution was a hook shot to crown a 14-0 run for Auburn early in the first half. He put them 14-2, an advantage that would never touch a single digit again. He got another loud ovation, his third of the night. Wiley, for any eligibility problem he has had in the last season, is still very much loved at the Auburn Stadium.
And even if he did not play like that on Friday night, he's still a crucial part of the team.
"Today was his second contact day in five weeks," Pearl said. "It's great to have him back."