AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn freshman point guard Sharife Cooper says he plans to enter the NBA draft and give up his remaining eligibility.
Cooper announced his decision to enter the draft and hire an agent Friday after putting up big numbers as a freshman despite playing in only 12 games. Cooper averaged 20.2 points, 8.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds after being declared eligible by the NCAA.
Fellow Auburn freshman JT Thor also has entered the draft, but left the door open for a return.
Cooper is one of just seven players nationally to average 20 points and eight assists per game in the last 25 years, joining recent players such as Ja Morant (Murray State) and Trae Young (Oklahoma).
"It was a tough decision, a hard decision, but with that being said, I would like to declare for the 2021 NBA Draft and hire an agent," Cooper said. "I'm forever grateful to be a part of the Auburn Family. If I had to make the decision a million more times, I'd pick Auburn every time. War Eagle."
The Powder Springs, Ga. native scored or assisted on 47.3% of Auburn's points while he was in the lineup. He set an Auburn record for assists average in a season, breaking current assistant coach Wes Flanigan's mark of 6.7 per game.
"His character and his hard work clearly shined through his lone season with us," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "After missing 72 days of practice, he started his first game against Alabama and put up 26 points and nine assists to help us take the would-be SEC champions down to the wire.
"He is a once in a generation point guard who has an uncanny ability to score and help others score."
Cooper, who was picked to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team, was a consensus 5-star and top-20 prospect out of McEachern High School. He had been the program's highest rated signee.