As the Auburn Tigers have reeled off 11 straight wins and made it to the Elite Eight, they’ve done so in large part due to Chuma Okeke.
The sophomore forward has quietly become one of the best big men in college basketball, which has been on full display in the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately, we won’t see Okeke back on a court anytime soon.
Okeke suffered a knee injury late in Auburn’s blowout win over the North Carolina Tar Heels, and immediately, everyone knew it was bad.
The worst was confirmed Saturday, as Okeke suffered a torn ACL that will not only end his season, but put his availability for the start of the 2019-20 season in jeopardy.
Sources: Auburn’s Chuma Okeke has a torn ACL in left knee, surgery scheduled for upcoming week. Absolutely devastating for Auburn and an emerging player.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 30, 2019
“It’s a bittersweet accomplishment because of Chuma getting hurt late in the game. Nobody works harder, nobody gives us more courage,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl after the win over top-seeded North Carolina.
Okeke had 20 points and 11 rebounds against UNC at the time of his injury. He averages 12 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds while playing just under 30 minutes per game. He was entering the first-round discussion for the 2019 NBA Draft, but this will likely kill those hopes.
Auburn will still have a wealth of firepower when they face the Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday, but you never want to see this happen to anyone. With him out, Danjel Purifoy and Malik Dunbar have shown their capable of stepping up and making a big impact.
Here’s to hoping Okeke makes a speedy recovery and returns to action before next season begins.