COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Tuesday was bittersweet for incoming Auburn freshman Chuma Okeke. He made it through the first round of cuts for USA Basketball’s under-19 team, meaning he’s one of the last 18 players in contention to make the 12-man FIBA World Cup roster. But he also was sidelined with an injury.
Okeke wore a brace on his left knee Tuesday as he sat out the morning and evening practice sessions. Team USA coach John Calipari said he’ll get an MRI on Wednesday morning to see if there’s anything serious.
“I make the cut and get hurt,” Okeke said, “but hopefully I can make a return tomorrow after they do the tests and stuff. I’m very hopeful for that.”
The 6-foot-7, 221-pound forward said he tweaked the knee while making a cut during a scrimmage Monday evening but played through it. Then he woke up Tuesday with significantly more pain.
“We’ll find out more,” Calipari said, “but I think he’s OK.”
Tigers fans certainly hope so, as Okeke has been a revelation — along with Auburn teammate Austin Wiley, who also made the cut — here in Colorado. While Wiley was a 5-star recruit, Okeke (a top-50 prospect himself) was not widely considered elite.
“It helped build my confidence a lot,” Okeke said of these last few days in Team USA camp, where he clearly looked like he belonged among the nation’s best. “Coming in here really unknown and now most of the people know me.”
SEC Country has been at Team USA camp all week and will have much more on the two Tigers on Wednesday. The future looks bright for Bruce Pearl at Auburn.