The hit to Auburn’s depth chart for the 2019-20 season has become official.
Underclassman Jared Harper and Chuma Okeke have kept their names in the eligible pool for the 2019 NBA Draft after the deadline to withdraw their names and return to college passed on Thursday at 11:59 p.m.
Both Harper and Okeke declared for the draft after the Tigers’ historic run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. Harper leaves one year of eligibility on the table while Okeke still had two years remaining.
Harper starred the past two seasons for Auburn as he was selected to the All-SEC second team both years. The 5-foot-11 guard averaged 15.3 points per game as a junior this past season after averaging 13.2 as a sophomore.
For Harper’s career on the Plains, he scored 1,427 total points while shooting a 35.9 percent from beyond the arc through his college career. He shot a career high 37 percent as a junior while making 98 threes.
"Jared Harper has been the quarterback of this basketball program for the last three years," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said when Harper declared. "He came here on a promise that together we could help make Auburn basketball relevant. Promises made. Promises kept.
"I have always been a believer in Jared. He is a special player with speed, quickness, power and a skill level that is unmatched by virtually any player his size. He will make it in the NBA."
The junior proved to be more than just a prolific scorer as he dished out 511 career assists as well as a single-season best for the program with 231 this past season. He also leaves Auburn second in the program’s history with 418 free throws made.
The junior declared his intentions to enter the draft and sign with an agent on April 9 on Instagram.
“First, I would like to thank God for providing me with the talent to play the game that I love and giving me the opportunity to share lifetime memories of our historic run,” Harper wrote in his message. “My dream coming out of high school was to lead Auburn to a national championship and we were close.
“There are so many people to thank for my success at Auburn. First, I would like to thank Coach Pearl for believing in me, the entire coaching staff, our managers, our fans, my teammates and the best strength coach and athletic trainer Coach Damon (Davis) and Clark (Pearson).
“They were key for me never missing a game at Auburn and always having me prepared to compete at the highest level every game.”
Okeke’s jump to the NBA follows a magical season and postseason run that was cut short by a torn ACL on March 29 in the Tigers’ win against North Carolina, 97-80, in the Sweet 16.
"I've been doing this a long time, and Chuma is one of the most versatile players I've ever coached and impacts the game on both ends of the court," Pearl said when Okeke declared for the draft on April 20. "I'm so proud of how hard he's worked and how much fun he is to coach. When he recovers from this injury he will be better than ever."
Through his final season, Okeke averaged 12 points per game, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists. In his final game, the 6-8 forward had scored 20 points and pulled down 11 boards before he went down with his injury with just over eight minutes left in the game.
“After talking with my family, Coach Pearl, and the entire staff at Auburn, I have decided to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft,” Okeke’s message read on Instagram when he entered the draft. “I want to thank God, my family, my coaches and teammates, and the entire Auburn family for their continued support these past two seasons.
“I’m grateful for all that we have accomplished the past two seasons. Together, we won championships and made history at Auburn.”
While the deadline for NCAA players to withdraw their name and be eligible to return to the college ranks has passed, players that qualify as early entrants have until June 10 at 4 p.m. CST to withdraw their names for consideration for the NBA Draft. The draft will be held on June 20 in Brooklyn, N.Y.