The Auburn Tigers men's basketball team has stumbled to a 9-14 overall record and 3-8 mark in the SEC this season and will apparently be without its leading scorer for the rest of the way.
Junior guard Kareem Canty took to Instagram to announce his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the upcoming NBA draft:
Wesley Sinor of AL.com confirmed the news: “It appears Kareem Canty has played his last game as an Auburn Tiger.”
Canty also sent out a series of tweets regarding his decision [sic]:
Most importantly I wanna say thank you auburn university for the best years off my life I'm forever grateful auburn man forever. Playing for the best coach in the land coach Pearl was very exciting but I decided to enter the NBA draft and forgo my senior season. Again thank you guys for so much forever war eagle !!!! Again Ive decided to enter because of personal reasons ....forever grateful !!
Canty started his collegiate career at Marshall in 2013-14 but transferred to Auburn and sat out for the 2014-15 campaign.
The guard didn't play in the last two games for the Tigers because of a suspension, which makes the timing of his decision noteworthy. Jay G. Tate of Rivals.com reported the following before Auburn’s loss to Georgia on Saturday:
The mercurial junior got into a verbal altercation Thursday afternoon with a member of the coaching staff and was asked to leave the practice area. Coach Bruce Pearl later elected to remove Canty from the lineup altogether for today's game in Athens, though the suspension could be extended.
"His effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable," Pearl said in a release. "He will step away from the team for a while and may return later in the season. He is suspended indefinitely."
This is a difficult blow in a disappointing season for head coach Bruce Pearl and the Tigers. Canty led the team with 18.3 points per game and served as a consistent threat from three-point range (36.1 percent). He also led Auburn with 5.3 assists per game, and the offense frequently ran through his hands with the game on the line.
Canty was instrumental in Auburn's 75-70 upset of Kentucky in January, finishing with 26 points and five made three-pointers. Campus Insiders shared his highlights from the game:
The Tigers lost to Georgia and Tennessee without Canty and managed to score a combined 100 points in the two defeats. Pearl talked about the team’s struggles against the Bulldogs without Canty running the show and some of his reasoning behind the suspension during a radio appearance, per Sinor:
This one is self-inflicted. I apologize to our fans and the Auburn family because it's my job ultimately to put our team together and make sure that we're all healthy and eligible and available and all those different things. ... Kareem has done a lot of very positive things. He's shown at times against the highest competition he can win his matchup. His national numbers are what they are, but inconsistent effort and attitude has led to conduct that is unacceptable – both in the game situations and at practice and just off the court. It got to situation where it warranted suspension.
Sinor highlighted Auburn’s struggles at the point guard spot without Canty. Tahj Shamsid-Deen (shoulder) and T.J. Dunans (knee) have both been out with injuries, and freshman New Williams and walk-on Patrick Keim have filled the void. Pearl has even elected to start the 6’8” Cinmeon Bowers at the position during Canty's suspension.
While it appears to be a lost season for the Tigers, especially without Canty to provide hope for an SEC tournament run, the guard will turn his attention to the NBA. Canty’s name did not appear on a recent 2016 or 2017 mock draft from DraftExpress, which means the guard may face an uphill battle.
Still, he is a solid shooter and natural scorer, which will likely catch the eyes of various teams looking for offense. However, off-court issues are always red flags, and NBA scouts and front offices will likely view the suspension and sudden departure from the team as such.
Perhaps Canty can make a lasting impression in predraft workouts and overcome those concerns, because he won’t be on the court again for the Tigers this season.