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Report: Auburn’s Chuma Okeke, a bubble first-round pick in upcoming draft, tears ACL

APTOPIX NCAA Auburn North Carolina Basketball

Auburn’s Chuma Okeke yells out in pain after being injured during the second half of a men’s NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against North Carolina Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


This is a punch to the gut.

Although, if you saw the injury you feared this, and worse.

Auburn’s Chuma Okeke scored 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead Auburn’s domination of North Carolina in the Sweet 16 Friday night, advancing the Tigers to a showdown with Kentucky on Sunday. But with eight minutes to go in the game, Okeke went down with what looked at the time like a serious knee injury. You knew it was bad when after the game Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said, “You know, we think it’s serious.”

It is serious. Okeke has a torn ACL, something that obviously not only ends his NCAA Tournament run but hurts the draft stock of a guy who’s impressive play was moving him into the late first round on many draft boards.

Okeke is a 6'7", 230-pound forward who looked like a fit in the modern NBA because he can hit the three ball and space the floor, he can attack the rim and post up mismatches switched onto him, and he can switch on defense. There were flaws in his game, but his late-season play, including in the NCAA Tournament, had him climbing draft boards.

Now he has a surgery ahead of him and some serious questions about his future and how best to recover.

It’s a punch to the gut. Hopefully, he recovers and gets back to his recent form.