We knew it would happen at some point last night, but we weren’t sure if it would happen in the first round, and we definitely weren’t positive that it would happen as early as it did. In the end, however, Chuma Okeke became Auburn’s first draft pick since 2001 as he was selected with the 16th overall pick by the Orlando Magic.
Projected near the bottom of the first round, many originally thought that teams in the NBA would be hesitant to take a chance on Chuma after his ACL injury suffered during the Sweet Sixteen game against North Carolina. He had meetings with teams earlier this spring, and seemed to come away from those talks with a positive feeling.
It seems that Chuma’s play down the stretch really spoke to the NBA teams he met with, and Orlando took the chance on him. With the selection, he now sits in rare company among Auburn basketball history.
.@chuma_okeke makes Auburn @NBADraft history after being chosen No. 16 by the @OrlandoMagic.— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) June 21, 2019
First Tiger selected since Jamison Brewer in 2001
Seventh 1st round selection all-time
Fifth-highest selection in program history#WarEagle x #NBADraft pic.twitter.com/3IBfIiSPYU
Over the stretch run that included Auburn’s 12-game winning streak, Chuma was fantastic. Starting with the buzzer beater three to beat Georgia in Athens, he notched eight double-digit games. In two wins over Tennessee, he scored a combined 40 points and went 8-14 from downtown, and he was the best player on the floor in the NCAA Tournament against North Carolina. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds before going down with the injury in the second half as Auburn boat-raced the Tar Heels.
As far as the injury goes, Orlando’s not worried about rushing him back from the rehab.
" ... as we always say, happen as it happens. And there's no rush. There's no rush whatsoever. We are drafting him to be a long-term player for the Orlando Magic."— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) June 21, 2019
In the first round alone, 14 players that had played against Auburn were drafted. Overall, 22 players from the Tigers’ 2018-19 schedule got selected last night. Two names that weren’t called were Bryce Brown’s and Jared Harper’s, unfortunately, but Brown did end up getting picked up by the Sacramento Kings for Summer League action.
Similar to how Auburn likes to out-run its opponents, Sacramento plays at one of the fastest paces in the league. Bryce Brown said that similarity would make playing for the Kings "a really good feel."— Nathan King (@byNathanKing) June 21, 2019
"I'd be very accustomed to playing fast." https://t.co/kahlmaGwac
Brown’s senior season saw a second-straight SEC Championship, and he was a huge part of the run for Auburn down the stretch in the same way that Chuma Okeke was. Starting with the regular season finale win over 5th-ranked Tennessee, Brown scored double digits in every game and hit 39 three-pointers in that run as well.
We’ll have to wait to see if Jared Harper is picked up in a free agent deal somewhere, but last night was undoubtedly the culmination of the best run in Auburn basketball history, and should work as a huge recruiting tool for Bruce Pearl and company.
Chuma Okeke deserves all of the praise tonight, BUT— #DoItForChuma (@aubawn) June 21, 2019
Okeke was picked #16 after getting hurt even though he was barely a top-50 recruit in high school just two years ago. Bruce Pearl just got another big recruiting tool.
With some of the high-profile targets that Auburn’s looking at on the recruiting trail, last night’s events can only help boost Auburn’s resume in their eyes. War Eagle!