By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn coach Bruce Pearl knows a good story when he sees one and he sees one in Jordon Granger.
Granger worked his way into the starting lineup last year, went from playing inside to outside this year, and now will get to show his stuff in in the state where he was the high school player of the year when the Tigers visit Missouri at 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.
In a season of Auburn injuries, Granger's ability and willingness to adjust, and to grow, has been a plus.
"Auburn changed him. It was in him, but it took a university like this, a community like this, and a ministry like this to be able to unlock a really good man," Pearl said. "I am happy for Jordon and we rely on him pretty heavily."
Granger's family is from around East St. Louis, Ill., and he grew up an Illinois fan. But he made his mark in Missouri high school basketball, helping McClur North High School in Florissant win back-to-back state titles while being named Missouri prep player of the year in 2012. He had to grow into playing time at Auburn. He started almost every game last year, and now, as a senior, is at it again, in a different role.
"He is a good defender and a good athlete. He is a good leader and teammate," Pearl said.
He was down on the depth chart at forward when the season started. He found an opening when injuries knocked out guards Tahj Shamsid-Deen, T.J. Dunans and now New Williams.
"We got some injuries in the backcourt and all of a sudden I started playing him at the three spot and because he is a good defender and can move his feet and keep guys in front, he likes the position," Pearl said.
"We needed him. He had a great semester academically. He is on time and on target to graduate."
He can defend, too.
"Coach Pearl has total faith in me in my defensive prowess," Granger said. "He feels that I can lock down one through five and he trusts me to do that. I just do what he asks me to do, day in and day out."
Pearl is hoping Auburn can steal a rare conference road win. Auburn is 7-6 overall and 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference. Missouri is 7-7 overall and 0-1 in the league, but 7-1 at home.
It's a plane trip away, but there's a guarantee that fans will be cheering for Auburn. Granger says he'll have a delegation of 16-20 there.
"It's a lot of pressure," Granger said. "It's like that every time I go back home because my family doesn’t really get to see me since I am in Alabama. I really want to play well and get a win on the road."
Granger said he's adjusted to his second year at Auburn.
“I feel like I have been battling injuries since the beginning of this year," he said. "Coach has really been putting me in a good position to be successful and I have been putting in extra time in at the gym. I really think it's paying off. My effort and energy have been the highest they have ever been since I have been at Auburn. I am finally learning the game and am becoming an impact on the game. That’s really helping me out with my confidence."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine