Auburn’s Cooper and Thor picked in NBA Draft
AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn’s Sharife Cooper and JT Thor both were chosen in the 2021 NBA Draft Thursday night. Thor was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 37th overall selection, while Cooper was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the No. 48 pick.
Following the selections, the Tigers have had four players drafted in the last three seasons under head coach Bruce Pearl, joining first-round selections Chuma Okeke (No. 16 in 2019) and Isaac Okoro (No. 5 in 2020). Auburn’s four draftees since 2019 matches the program’s total number of selections from the previous 25 years.
Thor is the second Tiger to be drafted by the Hornets, joining Jeff Moore, who was taken with the 58th selection of the 1988 NBA Draft. Cooper is the second Auburn player to be taken by the Hawks, joining Eddie Johnson, who was chosen with the 49th pick in the 1977 NBA Draft. Thor started all 27 games during the 2020-21 season for the Tigers and averaged 9.4 points, five rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 23 minutes per contest. The Anchorage, Alaska native shot 44 percent from the floor, including 30 percent from downtown, and shot 74 percent from the free throw line.
Thor scored in double figures 15 times during his freshman season, including 11 of his last 16 games, and pulled down at least five rebounds 16 times, including seven straight to close out the year. On Feb. 13 at Kentucky, Thor became the only freshman in the last decade to post a stat line of 24 points and nine rebounds inside Rupp Arena. He is one of just four players overall to do that since at least 2010. Thor, who was a five-star in the 2021 class before reclassifying to join Auburn prior to the 2020-21 season, was one of five freshmen in the country with at least 250 points, 100 rebounds and 30 blocks on the year.
Despite playing in just 12 games in an Auburn uniform, Cooper made an impact on the court averaging 20.2 points, 8.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game during the 2020-21 campaign. He is one of just two players in the country to average 20 points and eight assists per game in the last 25 years, joining his future teammate Trae Young (Oklahoma). Cooper became one of two Tigers to have three point-assist double-doubles in a season since the assist became an official NCAA statistic prior to the 1983-84 season. Moochie Norris had three such games during the 1994-95 season.
The Powder Springs, Ga. native scored or assisted on 471 of Auburn’s 996 points with him in the lineup (47.3 percent). His 8.1 assists per game set a single-season program record, breaking current assistant coach Wes Flanigan’s mark of 6.7 dimes per contest.
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 became the third McDonald’s All-American to sign with Auburn, joining Frank Ford (1983) and Korvotney Barber (2005).