The former French Junior National Team star will help fill the void left by graduating Gauchos Miles Norris and Andre Kelly
Yohan Traore, one of the nation’s top basketball recruits from the high school class of 2022, announced Friday that he is transferring from Auburn to UC Santa Barbara.
Traore, a 6-foot-10 and 225-pound freshman from France, entered the transfer portal last month following Auburn’s second-round loss to top-ranked Houston in the NCAA Tournament.
“New beginnings!!” Traore wrote while announcing his commitment to UCSB on Twitter. “Let’s Get it!”
The former five-star recruit played in 25 games last season for the Southeast Conference power, logging 9.9 minutes per game. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds while playing behind post players Johni Broome, Jaylin Williams and Dylan Cardwell, all of whom will be returning to the Tigers next season.
Auburn’s logjam at the post has become a godsend for UCSB.
“My time in Auburn has taught me lessons that extend far beyond the basketball court,” Traore said in a March 28 Instagram message that announced his decision to transfer. “I have given 100% to the University on and off the court.
“A heartfelt thanks to Coach (Bruce) Pearl for recruiting me and giving me the opportunity to play at Auburn. I also want to thank the entire Auburn staff for giving me the opportunity to play under their leadership this past year. To my teammates, thank you for always being by my side, you guys have become family to me.
“Most importantly I would like to thank the Auburn community for embracing and supporting me throughout my time here. I will always remember and appreciate you, but the time has come for me to enter the transfer portal and take that next step as a basketball player. Thank you all for respecting my decision.”
When contacted about Traore’s commitment, UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said he cannot comment about recruits until he receives their National Letter of Intent.
Traore will help fill the void left at UCSB by the graduation of starting front liners Miles Norris and Andre Kelly. He’ll join a lineup that includes Big West Conference Player of the Year Ajay Mitchell, a point guard who led UCSB to a school-record 27 wins and its second NCAA Tournament berth in the last three years.
The Gauchos shared the Big West regular season championship with UC Irvine before winning the league tournament last month at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nev.
Traore narrowed his choice of transfer to Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, TCU and Mississippi before choosing UCSB. He was also contacted by such national powers as UCLA and North Carolina State.
He was rated as the No. 24 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite national rankings after averaging 25 points and 14 rebounds per game for Dream City Christian School of Glendale, Ariz. He led Dream City to the adidas Boys 3SSB Championship during the summer of 2021.
Traore received invitations to the NBPA Top 100 Camp and Pangos All-American Camp in 2021, and then to the Nike Hoop Summit and Allen Iverson Roundball Classic in 2022.
He previously played for Prolific Prep of Napa Christian High School, the alma mater of several former Gauchos including four-time All-Big West Conference forward Amadou Sow.
Sow, who led UCSB to the 2021 NCAA Tournament, is currently averaging 14.0 points and 5.2 rebounds for Blois in France’s top pro division.
Traore originally signed with LSU out of high school but was granted a release from his letter of intent when the school fired coach Will Wade.
Traore, who was born in Tours, France, came to the United States at age 17.
“I was connected to a guy who had connections here with high schools and colleges,” he said in an interview last season with the Auburn media relations office. “He was like, ‘If you want to get used to the U.S. game early, you’ve got to go right now.’
“I knew I wanted to go for it, compete against the best players in the U.S.”
Traore, the oldest of five children, said it was difficult to leave his family. His mother, Mah Bana Traore, immigrated to France from the Ivory Coast.
“Coming here, I had to learn English,” he said. “We were learning English in class, but it wasn’t the same. It was once or twice a week.
“It’s just being comfortable. Talking to everybody and not being afraid to make mistakes when you talk. It took me probably six months. I’m still learning right now.”
He started playing soccer age 6 but soon decided that he was “too tall” for the sport. He switched to basketball a year later.
“In soccer, you’ve got to be 5-6 or 5-7,” Traore said. “I started playing basketball at the playground against my friends, and I just fell in love with it.”
He played for both the U15 and U16 French National Teams before coming to America.
He picked Auburn over Texas Tech, Gonzaga and Michigan. He also received offers from schools such as Houston, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, and Arkansas.
“I have great respect for players like Yohan, who come to the U.S. to pursue their academic and athletic dreams, far away from their families,” Pearl said earlier last season. “Talk about a cultural fit to our program. Yohan is humble and hungry. He is incredibly disciplined, a hard worker and wants to be coached.
“He has tremendous upside because of his effort, his attitude, his size and his skill level.”
One NBA scout, reporting three weeks ago on the Sports Illustrated web site, projected Traore as an eventual late first-round draft pick.
“More of a traditional big, Traore is strong for his age and uses his athleticism to generate easy buckets,” the report said. “To this point in his career, he’s mostly operated out of the post, although he’s expanded his game outside of the paint as well.
“Most of Traore’s offensive game starts with catching the ball near the block. From there, he’s generally able to back his defender into the paint for a layup, or he goes to one of his signature turnaround jumpers. More recently he’s shown the ability to step out 10 or 12 feet to shoot a face-up jump shot, but that’s certainly not a proven part of his game.”
The report noted Traore’s “elite athleticism, a frame that’s ready for the NBA and the mobility to be a rim runner.” His most impressive trait, it added, was his efficiency and ability to play within a role.
“Over the past few years, he’s posted incredible shooting percentages, mostly because he generates his shots near the rim,” it said. “With that in mind, he rarely tries doing too much and simply does what his team needs.
“It will be interesting to see how his potential is unleashed at the college level with more of a load on his shoulders.”