It’s been a minute since Auburn fans have seen Danjel Purifoy on the floor. In fact, we have to go back to March 8, 2017 when Auburn lost a heartbreaking game to Missouri in Overtime in the 1st Round of the SEC Tournament.
647 days later and the wait is finally over. The junior forward will make his season debut on Saturday night when the 8th ranked Auburn Tigers take on UAB at Legacy Arena in Birmingham. Purifoy will take the floor for the first time about 50 miles from his hometown of Centreville, Alabama. Purifoy’s addition to the lineup will allow Bruce Pearl to be able to go 10 deep with his Tigers.
Purifoy has unfortunately sat more in his time at Auburn than he’s been able to play. He missed his first season here, the 2015-2016 season, due to academic eligibility issues. He of course missed the 2017-2018 season, alone with this year’s first 9 games stemming from the FBI Investigation. Despite this, Purifoy has stuck it out at Auburn throughout this process and now will finally get a chance to show what he can do on the court. With everything he’s been through, motivation shouldn’t be a problem for him.
Back in 2016-2017, Purifoy averaged 11.5 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. He was a 36.9% 3-point shooter and an 88% free throw shooter that season. He played really well during the non-conference schedule, scoring 27 points on two separate occasions, but sprained his ankle early in SEC play and mostly struggled for the rest of the year. He did put together a 15 point, 7 rebound performance in late February in a road win at LSU.
When we first saw Purifoy in the exhibition game against Lincoln Memorial, he was clearly rusty scoring 5 points, on 1-7 (0-5 3-point range) shooting in 17 minutes of action. He also looked a bit slow at times but all in all, that experience was good for him to see what he needed to work on.
During his suspension, Purifoy has worked on shedding a few pounds as evidenced here:
Coach told me you got to lose a few pounds because your playing the three. I said sheesh but I gotcha coach. in two weeks I went from 242 to 230 I’m ready to play. pic.twitter.com/ihyyh4k1Ro— Thedanjelpurifoy3 (@DanjelKevon3) November 29, 2018
Now one of Auburn’s biggest questions going forward is what role will Purifoy play on this team?
Steven Pearl how Auburn will fit forward Danjel Purifoy back into the rotation when he returns Saturday against UAB in Birmingham: pic.twitter.com/UEGQyY75yq— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) December 10, 2018
Like it did for Austin Wiley, I expect it to take a few games for Purifoy to regain his footing and comfortability on the floor. Beginning Saturday, Auburn will have 4 non-conference games before SEC play begins on January 9th. Hopefully by then, we should have a much better idea of his role as he gets reacclimated to game action. Even with the return of Wiley, Auburn has stuck with its original Starting 5 throughout the season and I expect that to continue with Purifoy’s return as well. Auburn has consistently started games well so far this year that it makes sense to keep that consistency going and have Purifoy as a guy coming off the bench. I think 15-20 minutes is a realistic expectation for Purifoy as he gets back out there for Auburn and with the depth this team has, that would be a solid contribution for him.
While Purifoy played mostly out of position in his one season of action on the Plains, he looks poised to play at his normal 3 spot this season thanks to the frontcourt depth Auburn has assembled. However, Purifoy also has the ability to play at the 4 spot or even at the 2 spot whenever a player or two inevitably ends up in foul trouble. If there’s one thing we learned last season: you can never have too much depth on a team. Purifoy’s addition means that minutes will have to be shuffled a bit more but on a team of guys that just wants to win, I don’t see it being too big of an issue. One thing to watch is the lineup combinations Pearl has on the floor with Purifoy in the game. Having the ability to go 2 deep at every position is a problem that most coaches across the country would envy.
If the Auburn starting lineup remains the same then you’re looking at a bench of:
Throughout this entire process, Purifoy has been vocal on social media on how anxious he is to get back on the court. Well now the time has come, and all Auburn fans can’t wait to see Purifoy back in action and see what he can do to help Auburn build on their 8-1 start to the season. If Purifoy plays well, he’ll be another piece of the puzzle on a team that has the potential to be very special this season. Hopefully Birmingham will give this young man a great ovation when he takes the court for the first time. I know I will and I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds! War Eagle!