By ARTHUR L. MACK
Baker High basketball phenom Labaron Philon said Friday his decision to commit to Auburn was easy and his coach said he is looking forward to the Hornets’ star lighting up Neville Arena.
The 6-4 junior guard — one of the nation’s leading scorers at 36 points per game — revealed his college choice before a large crowd at Daniel Bumpers Gym. He plans to play the two guard at the Plains under coach Bruce Pearl.
Philon chose Auburn over Alabama, Kansas, Arkansas, Houston, Tennessee and Ole Miss.
“It was an easy decision,” he said. “I just wanted to choose the school that was best for me. I waited until the last game of the season, so I just got everything off my shoulders and now I can play basketball.”
Hornets coach David Armstrong said almost every SEC school offered Philon.
“Auburn’s getting a hell of a basketball player and a good kid,” Armstrong said. “He’s going to help them win games and their arena is one of the more popular in basketball. To see him put on a show in the next couple of years is going to be a fun thing for everybody.”
Philon said he wants to model his game after Sharief Cooper, who starred for Auburn and is now in the NBA’s G League with the Cleveland Charge.
“I feel like the Tigers can help me to go to the next level,” Philon said. “Coach Pearl kept his word throughout the entire process. These last couple of nights, I had him on the phone and he was very excited to get me there. Wherever I went, my parents were going to be behind me and support me and they kept their word. … We’ve got two great guys that are committed and (Pearl) went and got another point guard, which I’m fine with.”
Armstrong said he is confident Philon chose wisely.
“I think he made the right decision,” Armstrong said. “He fits well not only from the basketball side but Bruce Pearl and his staff are a bunch of great guys. We really were happy to get to know them over the years. I just wanted to do whatever I could to (help him) make the right decision. It’s a big decision and part of his life.”
With his commitment out of the way, Philon is ready to focus on getting the Hornets to the state final four.
“I can concentrate now and help these guys out the best I can,” he said.
Philon — who has led Baker to a 22-6 record, the 7A Area 1 title and a No. 6 statewide ranking — is averaging 36.3 points per game, shooting 51% from the field and 83% from the free-throw line this season. He is also averaging 3.8 assists, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game and shooting 35% from 3-point range.
Philon has averaged 25.6 points per game in 86 career games going into Friday, shot 55% from the field, made 34% of his three-pointers and 76% from the free-throw line.
In a Thursday Facebook post, Philon wrote: “First, I want to thank God for putting me in this position to be one of the best players and the highest recruited player in the United States. Also, I want to thank my Mom Alicia Robinson and my Dad Labarron Philon for putting all their time into me and giving me the powers to be great.
“Thanks to Baker for keeping me in track throughout the process and Coach Armstrong for pushing me to my best. To Rashad Red Lewis (and) johnny Mayhane, thanks for being with me in the gym at 12:00 o’clock at night, crying, sweating and pushing me to be great.”