Auburn Tigers sophomore Chuma Okeke has submitted paperwork to the league office to make himself eligible for the 2019 NBA draft, a source told ESPN. He intends to hire an agent, as permitted by NCAA rules, and will maintain his eligibility while rehabbing his knee injury at Auburn.
Okeke, the No. 41 prospect in the ESPN 100, was projected as a first-round draft pick when he suffered what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL on March 29 against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. He had 20 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals when he went down with the injury midway through the second half.
Okeke averaged 12.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.2 blocks in 29.1 minutes per game for Auburn, shooting 38.7 percent from 3-point range. Despite the injury, he is intriguing to NBA teams due to his 7-foot-1 wingspan and defensive versatility, as 6-foot-8, 230-pounder regularly was tasked with slowing down guards and big men alike. His 3-point shooting ability and positive assist-to-turnover ratio gives him the ability to operate on the perimeter effectively thanks to his high basketball IQ. Several NBA teams told ESPN they are unlikely to be deterred by Okeke’s injury due to his long-term potential and the likelihood of him making a full recovery.