Auburn basketball: does UK loss impact Sharife Cooper as one-and-done?

Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

Head coach Bruce Pearl called today’s game against the Kentucky Wildcats a “disappointing loss”, words that seem to describe a substantial part of Auburn basketball’s season thus far. Auburn falls to an 11-11 record and 5-8 in SEC play.

But what does Auburn’s eleventh loss mean for Sharife Cooper’s future with Auburn basketball?

Auburn Wire reported last week that Cooper was up to No. 9 in the most recent ESPN mock NBA draft. He’s averaging 20.2 points per game, 8.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and is an 81 percent free-throw shooter.

In just ten games with the Tigers, Cooper has been an instant impact on the team, leading the offense and recording double-doubles in three of those games. He is expected to be the program’s second one-and-done player after Isaac Okoro, but is it possible he could come back for another year?

There are definitely reasons for Sharife Cooper to return for another year at Auburn, the first being the self-imposed post-season ban. If Cooper leaves for the NBA after this season, he’ll never get a chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament and play for a national title.

He’ll also be at a disadvantage to all the players getting time on the floor throughout March–they’ll have more time and more chances to improve their draft stock on a larger scale while Cooper and the Tigers sit on the sidelines. reported Bruce Pearl’s words on today’s loss, extending another reason why Cooper could benefit from another year of collegiate play:

"“If you look at how we played at the end of the game, down, we played like our hair was on fire; that’s how our teams play best. This young team has not learned that lesson yet, and the season’s almost over. So, very disappointed. You can’t give up 52 points in a half and expect to win a basketball game, let alone making history.”"

Sharife Cooper plays on what is widely considered to be the youngest team in college basketball in terms of experience, and it’s been made very clear that they’re still learning the lessons of the game. Although they led going into halftime, the Tigers’ defense gave up that lead and dug themselves into a hole too deep to climb out of in the second.

Much of Auburn basketball’s performance in this game seems to indicate the team is taking steps back–Sharife Cooper shot zero free throws in the game, and the team gave up 52 points in the second half.

No one is denying that Sharife Cooper is an incredible basketball player, but he could use an extra year of Auburn basketball to improve his game and possibly move up in the draft projections. He could also take the Tigers on a deep tournament run in 2022, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

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