After a tumultuous two years that saw him miss an entire season and part of another, senior Danjel Purifoy seems poised for a breakout year as the Tigers' most capable answer to the loss of star forward Chuma Okeke.
After redshirting as a true freshman in 2015, Purifoy put together a tremendous freshman year in 2016, averaging 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals a game. He seemed set to become a household name in the SEC because of his dominant play.
Instead, he become a household name for all the wrong reasons after authorities arrested Chuck Person on federal charges related to a scheme that involved Purifoy and fellow teammate Austin Wiley and their families.
Purifoy and Wiley were suspended for the entire 2017-18 season, with Purifoy picking up a longer suspension that stretched nine games into the 2018-19 season. And he wasn't quite the player he had been when he returned, playing sloppy ball at times and averaging only 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game, although he showed flashes of his former self during the Tigers' run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.
"It’s been rough, but I don’t let the rough times outweigh the good times," he said about his time at Auburn. "It’s been a lot of good times, and that’s the only thing I think about."
Now a senior, Purifoy is looking to return to form. During the offseason, he turned heads for his work ethic, as he went to the gym three times a day.
"His work ethic was just much better," said fellow senior Samir Doughty. "He got into the gym every morning working on his shot, working on being more unselfish. He’s more consistent with his jump shot now."
While Doughty sees Purifoy as working to be more unselfish, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl is looking for the power forward to be the exact opposite.
"I think taking on the personality of being willing to be a more dominate player, to really look to hunt his shot," said Pearl. "He's a great shooter for a player his size. I want him to be a little more selfish, particularly at the offensive end."
To help with that, Purifoy shed 12 pounds during the offseason and is just taking everything "day by day" and trying to end his Auburn career on a high note.
"I can move better, jump like I used to. I’m just more confident in myself," he said.
Pearl is hoping that Purifoy turns into a player akin to Okeke, a force on both the outside and inside.
"At the same time, utilize him a lot like we utilized Chuma [Okeke] as an inside-out player, both offensively and defensively," he said. "Danjel is a better outside shooter than Chuma, but there's also a lot of intangible things that Chuma did that Danjel can do. Just being dominant, being more assertive."