Auburn true freshman Isaac Okoro has been one of the most electrifying newcomers to the college basketball game this year, showcasing his high-flying dunking ability, aggressive defense and clutch play while helping No. 4 Auburn remain one of two unbeaten teams in the country. Okoro's solid play has attracted attention, as he's moved up most NBA mock draft boards and is generally projected to go in the top 15 picks this year.
It's not hard to see what Okoro might make the jump to the pros after only one season at Auburn. He's currently second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.1 points a game to go along with 4.5 rebounds a game, 13 steals and 15 blocks. Okoro isn't focused on where his play might land him on the draft boards, though.
"I don’t really pay attention to stuff like that. I’m really focused on this season and making history here," he said.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl says he's pleased that Okoro's stock has risen, and that he has a great story for all student-athletes that are in that position.
"He really truly isn’t paying any attention to it. He just was raised right. He’s paying attention to the next practice, the next opponent, how he’s going to eat tonight, what he’s going to do to rest, what he’s going to do academically. He is such a joy to coach," said Pearl. "When the season is over, we’ll look at it and make a great decision."
Pearl added that it's refreshing that Okoro is focused on the now and not playing to just raise his NBA stock, which takes pressure off him.
"I have coached players that took every shot going, ‘If I can make this I can get drafted.’ You talk about having a tough time," he said. "It’s to the victor go the spoils, and the riches at the next level are so great, it takes real toughness and mental discipline and a real joy for the game. It’s easy for Isaac Okoro to block those things out because of how he’s built and his true make-up. It’s harder for others."
Okoro said the support of his teammates since he arrived on campus this summer has given him more confidence.
"They’ve seen me play in high school, so they know what kind of player I am. Ever since I came in, they’ve given me the confidence to do what I do," he said. "That gives me a boost to go out there and play my game, to go out there and show everyone what I can do.
"I feel like as I play more and more college games, my confidence is getting higher. I’m getting back to myself and improving things that I need to be improving."
Okoro and the Tigers will now turn their attention to a road matchup against Florida on Saturday. That game is set to start at 12:30 p.m. and get national exposure on CBS.