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Wiley and Purifoy Suspended: What Now?

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Auburn vs Missouri Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Today we learned that Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy were the two players connected to the Chuck Person investigation.

This didn’t come as a shock to those who had followed the story and the Auburn basketball program. It was always going to be 2 of Auburn’s 3 NBA prospects, Danjel, Wiley, or Heron. It appears that Chuck Person paid $11,000 to Purifoy’s mother and $7,500 to Wiley’s mother.

It’s possible . . . maybe . . . that the NCAA later clears them to play but for the foreseeable future, Auburn needs to plan on being without them. Auburn is being so tight-lipped that any statement that they’re coming back eventually or gone forever would be purely speculative. But I’m not optimistic.

Losing these players hurts our depth and our chances at postseason play. Auburn was tapped as a likely NCAA Tournament team by several preseason magazines. That goal is much harder to reach without Wiley and Purifoy.

While this is a huge loss for Auburn, for the first time in a long time, Auburn has depth to help soften the blow. Without Purifoy, transfer Malik Dunbar will get more minutes at wing as will Mustapha Heron (when Bryce Brown plays shooting guard). Although far from ideal, Auburn should be able to work around the loss of Purifoy.

The bigger questions come in the paint. Wiley was going to be a monster. Pearl was trying to run more of the offense through Wiley, getting him the ball on the block with his back to the basket and letting him work. Without him, Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer are going to have to really step up at center. Either Chuma Okeke or DeSean Murray are going to have to live up to expectations at power forward. Without Wiley, Auburn will have to rely more on speed and athleticism.

On the other hand, we’re alive. “Anyone who is among the living has hope.” There’s no postseason ban or recruiting sanctions (yet). All we can do is support Bruce, the team, hope Danjel and Austin are cleared, and dust off those “Free Danjel” signs from a couple of years back.

War Eagle, Always.