Auburn forward Chuma Okeke has a torn ACL and will undergo surgery on Tuesday, to be performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida, the school announced Saturday.
Okeke suffered the injury with 8:08 left in Friday’s Sweet 16 victory over top-seeded North Carolina in the Midwest Region.
“It’s our jobs to pick him, lift him up and encourage him,” Auburn guard Bryce Brown said at a press conference Saturday.
Okeke won’t play but will stay with the fifth-seeded Tigers in Kansas City for Sunday’s game against No. 2 Kentucky in the regional final.
“Almost night in and night out, in this month, Chuma Okeke’s been the best player on the floor,” coach Bruce Pearl said on ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday morning before an MRI confirmed the ACL tear. “We’re gonna miss him a lot having to go up against Kentucky tomorrow.”
Okeke, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, scored 20 points and 11 rebounds before suffering the knee injury against North Carolina, falling to the court while attempting a layup. He has started all 38 games this season, averaging 12.0 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds, also leading Auburn with 69 steals and 46 blocked shots.
“I think last night after the game it was a little bit tougher on us than it is right now,” guard Jared Harper said at Saturday’s press conference. “It’s just another reason for our team to come even closer.”
—Field Level Media