No one's stock rose more sharply this season than true freshman Isaac Okoro.
Ranked the No. 36 player overall, the Powder Springs, Georgia, native arrived on The Plains last summer amid high expectations — the four-time all-state selection just came off leading McEachern High to an undefeated 32-0 record and the school's first state championship during his senior season, in which he averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.
He didn't disappoint when he suited up for the Tigers, immediately becoming the team's most reliable player, starting every game when healthy and logging the second-most minutes, points and rebounds a game on the team. Not only did he put up 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in his 31.5 minutes of action a game, he also offered up electrifying dunks, blocks and clutch perimeter shooting.
Still, not many thought he would shoot up the mock NBA Draft boards as quickly as he has. Many mock drafts currently peg him as a sure-fire lottery pick, destined to be selected in the draft's top-10 picks.
"He didn't lose at McEachern High School and he was 25-6 in his first year at Auburn," said coach Bruce Pearl. "I think most people, most experts would have probably thought it was going to take a couple years where he'd be in a position to be ready or in a position to be drafted, but we didn't spend a lot of time talking about it because that's just not who he is. As a result he played the game for joy, he played it to win championships, he played it to get better."
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic brought an abrupt halt to the NBA season, with play suspended indefinitely, and might throw a wrench into the NBA Draft process, with workouts and the combine doubtful. The Covid-19 outbreak could also push back the draft.
This week, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility for spring sports players, but did not extend that to winter sports like basketball. The NCAA deadline for early entrant withdrawal is June 3, although that could get pushed back if the NBA Draft Combine, currently planned for May 19-24, is delayed.
"Regarding the NBA Draft, I'm certain deadlines are going to be pushed back," said Pearl. "But the circumstances as they present themselves now, where if Isaac has an opportunity to be a first-round pick and certainly has an opportunity to be in the lottery, with this draft not being as deep as next year's draft is going to be, I think it makes sense for him to absolutely become draft eligible, which he is going to and then go through the process. And if then the information comes back and it confirms the information we have right now, that he is going to indeed be a lottery pick, then he needs to stay in the draft. But right now I know he's going to make himself eligible but the decisions about the future are all still pending."