Charles Barkley is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, an under-sized college center at Auburn known for his rebounding and shot-blocking who became of the best players in the NBA for his era.
Here’s everything you need to know about Charles Barkley’s college career at Auburn.
Charles Barkley’s college stats and vitals
Weight: 252 pounds
Years active: 1981-84
NCAA tournament record: 0-1
Career averages: 14.1 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game, 62.6% shooting
How many points did Charles Barkley average in college?
Charles Barkley averaged double figures in each of his three seasons at Auburn, most notably a career-best 15.1 points per game as a junior in the 1983-84 season. He averaged 14.1 points per game for his career.
What was Charles Barkley’s record in college?
Auburn went 49-38 in three seasons with Charles Barkley. The Tigers’ record improved each season Barkley was on campus, from 14-14 to 15-13 to 20-11.
What kind of prospect was Charles Barkley in high school?
A story published in The Selma Times-Journal (Selma, Alabama) in July 1980, the summer before Barkley’s senior year of high school, noted that the 6-6 center was All-State, All-State Tournament, All-Region, All-County and the county MVP after averaging 19.7 points, 18.9 rebounds, 5.1 blocks and 3.1 assists per game. The Alabama Journal ranked Barkley as the No. 7 high school basketball player in the state of Alabama in 1981, a year that UAB’s Gene Bartow called “a banner year” and Alabama assistant coach John Bostick called the “best I’ve ever seen.”
So Barkley was a well-regarded high school player but no one knew he’d be a future NBA MVP. In fact, he wasn’t being recruited by any big-time schools in the summer of 1980, according to The Montgomery Advertiser. Barkley wasn’t heavily recruited until late in his senior year at Leeds High School.
His recruitment took off when he posted 24 points and 20 rebounds against 6-11 standout Bobby Lee Lewis, who would later attend Alabama.
In a story published in The Anniston Star (Anniston, Alabama), the paper received scouting reports from Bill Cronauer, the head of the “most authoritative basketball scouting service in the nation,” on each of the SEC schools. “They were looking for guys that would get them in the first division — on paper, I don’t see any guys that will put them in the first division,” Cronauer said of Auburn’s 1981 recruiting class. “I don’t think you give them much more than a ‘fair.'”
What was Charles Barkley’s game like?
Despite being just 6-6, Barkley played center and held his own in the low post, on the glass and defensively. He kept up with — and bested — taller opponents, all while having a lot of fun in the process.
“The best way to look at Charles Barkley is to just relax in your seat and digest him slowly,” wrote The Montgomery Advertiser’s Bob Mayes during Barkley’s freshman year. “To watch him have fun … and to him, having fun means rejecting shots, soaring high for rebounds and nailing spectacular slam dunks.”
Barkley was incredibly active on both ends of a floor. He used his great leaping ability and sturdy frame to get prime positioning and beat his opponents to the ball. Barkley broke Auburn’s single-season block record by the 12th game of his freshman year, even though he said defense was the most difficult transition from high school to college.
Barkley showed is personality, too, engaging the crowd by waving or blowing kisses.
“I think Auburn people were starved for somebody to identify with, to cling to or support,” Auburn coach Sonny Smith said. “He arrived on the scene at the right time. I think he’s really a hot item because of his mannerisms more than anything else … the spectacular way that he scores or rebounds or blocks shots.”
Barkley was 5-10 and 220 pounds at age 13, according to the Alabama Journal. As he grew, his body began to fill out and he used the weight to compete with taller players who played center.
“When push comes to shove,” wrote the Alabama Journal’s Darryal Ray, “Charles Barkley can keep up with the best of them. He can trade knee-for-knee with Kentucky’s 6-foot-11 Melvin Turpin, push-for-push with Vanderbilt’s 6-foot-8 Ted Young, and elbow-for-elbow with Tennessee’s 6-foot-7 Dale Ellis.”
Playing time played a key role in Barkley’s decision to attend Auburn.
“I first thought about coming here because I thought I would have the best chance to play right away,” he said. “That was a big factor in my coming here.”
What were some of Charles Barkley’s best games?
Barkley played against Tennessee in what he called the most physical game he had ever played in, yet he still came away with 21 points and 11 rebounds his freshman season. The next year he went for a career-high 35 points and 17 rebounds against the Vols. He made 13-of-14 shots from the field but just 9-of-15 free throws, including five straight misses, and he took responsibility for the Tigers’ loss.
As a freshman, there were three double-doubles against Melvin Turpin and Kentucky: 25 points and 17 rebounds, 18 points and 12 rebounds, and 18 points and 11 rebounds. Don’t forget the 19-point, 17-rebound, record-setting seven-block game against LSU.
Barkley scored 28 points, including 9-of-9 shooting in the second half against rival Alabama in his last home game at Auburn. The Tigers locked up second place in the SEC — the first time since 1963 that Auburn finished in the top two of the conference and the first time that Auburn beat Alabama twice in a season since 1971.
Barkley had 23 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks on 8-of-10 shooting against Richmond in his only NCAA tournament game.
What awards did Charles Barkley win in college?
Here are some of the awards Charles Barkley received in college:
- 1982 Second Team All-SEC
- 1982 Third Team Freshman All-American
- 1983 First/Second Team All-SEC
- 1984 First Team All-SEC
- 1984 SEC All-Tournament Team
- 1984 SEC Tournament MVP
- 1984 SEC Player of the Year
- 1984 Second/Third Team All-American
- 1980s All-SEC Team
- 1980s SEC Player of the Decade (Birmingham Post-Herald)
What records did Charles Barkley set in college and where does he rank among historical greats?
Here are some of the records Charles Barkley set in college and where he ranks on all-time statistical lists:
- First in Auburn history in field-goal percentage in a game (min. 10 attempts): 1.000
- First, second, sixth in Auburn history in field-goal percentage in a season: .644, .638, .595
- First in Auburn history in field-goal percentage in a career: .626
- Led Auburn in scoring in 1982-83: 14.4 points per game
- Led Auburn in rebounding in 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84: 9.8, 9.5, 9.5 rebounds per game
- Led Auburn in blocks in 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84: 51, 45, 49 blocks
- Most rebounds in an NCAA tournament game in Auburn history: 17 rebounds
- Tied for third in Auburn history in career rebound average: 9.6 rebounds per game
- Sixth in Auburn history in career blocks: 145 blocks
- Seventh in Auburn history in career rebounds: 806 rebounds
- 27th on Auburn’s career scoring list: 1,183 points
What did people say about Charles Barkley?
Auburn coach Sonny Smith: “He probably has the potential to grow more. A lot of people want us to have his wrists X-rayed to see if he is still growing. There are a lot of people who think he could grow to be 6-foot-9. If he does, his future would be unbelievable.”
Smith: “Barkley has the ability to dominate the game at times. I’ve heard he’s done that in some of the preseason games. Barkley is more suited to playing with his back to the basket and as soon as he learns the defense needed in this league, he’ll be a big factor for us.”
Smith after a 60-59 win over Stetson: “We were down by three with less than a minute to go and I guess we might have been a little shaken… everybody except Barkley, anyway. He was so confident it was funny. He never stopped talking, even when I was trying to say something … He kept jabbering about how we could beat anybody we wanted to — Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Notre Dame, anybody. He picked some winners to compare us to, but I think we all started to believe him after a while. He made us believe we could beat Stetson, anyway.”
The Anniston Star‘s Rick Bragg after Auburn’s win over Stetson: “But, conceded (Sonny) Smith, for a 17-year-old kid who has yet to play more than 17 minutes in a college basketball game, Barkley makes his presence known.”
Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall: “The kid is something.”
Hall: “He’s deceiving in his looks. At 6-foot-7 and 260 or 270, you don’t expect that much to get that high off the floor so quick. When he gets that body in front of you, you’re lost. Down there last season Barkley intimidated us defensively. They four-man pressed us and he blocked everything that came at the basket.”
Alabama’s Bobby Lee Hurt: “Charles is quicker than you’d ever dream to be as big as he is.”
Hurt: “He’s stronger than (Patrick) Ewing.”
Georgia’s Terry Fair: “He’s the best around the basket. Once he gets the ball down under, you just throw up your hands and pray.”
Georgia coach Hugh Durham: “Barkley is an inside player. It’s hard to miss a shot from a half-inch. I bet if you added up all 10 shots he made on us, it wouldn’t total two feet.”
LSU coach Dale Brown: “He just decided to take charge and wipe us out. He’s just an awesome specimen out there.”
Auburn associate sports information director Mel Pulliam: “He leads the SEC in number of nicknames.”
Charles Barkley quotes
Barkley: “I didn’t want to play football in high school. It’s too dangerous.”
Barkley on his goal for his freshman season: “I said at the first of the year that I wanted to lead the league in rebounding. That’s a very difficult thing to do. Everybody is so close to you in statistics that if you have a bad game, they can catch up and pass you.”
Barkley on his nicknames: “It doesn’t bother me. They called me (Fatso) in high school. I am fat, but I don’t have any plans to lose any weight right now. Things are going too well for me. I think the added weight helps me. It’s easier for me to get positioning on guys who are bigger than me. It’s harder for them to move me away from the basket.”
Barkley on how SEC opponents handled him: “Everybody was trying to get the cheap shots in at first. They wanted to see if I was going to cry about it. But it doesn’t matter to me. I like to play that way. That’s my game — physical.”
Barkley on his adjustment to the college game: “The toughest thing for me when we first started was the defense. It was something new I had to learn. My offensive rebounding and my shot blocking are pretty strong, but my defense and conditioning have to improve.”
Barkley on rebounding: “Most of it is position and timing. If you get the best position, you’re going to get the rebound. You just have to be careful not to jump too soon and be careful not to push off (opponents) too much.”
Barkley on dunking: “I try to dunk as soon as possible and as many times as possible. It lets the other team know that I can score and take it to the hoop.”
Barkley: “I don’t feel I have to prove myself against (Bobby Lee Lewis and Ennis Whatley). College ball is a lot different from high school and anything can happen. I’m just going to try to be the best I can be. Charles Barkley can play like everyone else. You can’t rely on what you did in high school.”
Barkley after breaking the Auburn blocked shots record: “I didn’t even know about any record. I was just trying to play hard.”
Barkley after Auburn finished second in the SEC in 1984: “There is nobody to blame but ourselves for not winning the championship. The tournament gives us a second chance. Kentucky has a great team, but we think we should have won it.”