Chuma Okeke's Knee Injury Diagnosed as Torn ACL After Leaving Auburn vs. UNC

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2019

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 23: Chuma Okeke #5 of the Auburn Tigers is seen during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on February 23, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Auburn Tigers forward Chuma Okeke suffered a torn ACL in Friday's 97-80 Sweet 16 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Charania reported Okeke will undergo surgery Tuesday. 

The sophomore had 20 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes against North Carolina and was averaging 12.0 points and 6.8 boards for the season.

Although his team was fresh off a massive victory, the injury weighed heavily for Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, who began tearing up when talking about Okeke in his postgame interview on the floor.

Okeke will now miss Auburn's Elite Eight matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday. The Tigers are hoping to punch their ticket to the Final Four for the first time in program history. His teammates spoke about the impact of his absence.

John Clay @johnclayiv

Jared Harper on Okeke injury: "It's something else that can bring our team closer." #auburn #BBN

CBS Sports Network @CBSSportsNet

"It’s our jobs to pick him, lift him up and encourage him." - Bryce Brown @AuburnMBB is ready to play for Chuma Okeke, who was diagnosed with a torn ACL. https://t.co/RhTO8am5pJ

A torn ACL could impact more than just Auburn's quest for a national title. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected Okeke to be the 24th overall pick in his most recent 2019 NBA mock draft. Wasserman also listed him among the best draft prospects still alive in the regional finals:

"A 6'8", 230-pound big man, Okeke jumps off the screen as an obvious NBA fit for his shooting range, defensive switchability and the potential he's flashed attacking closeouts and scoring in the post. 

"He's suddenly become one of the most interesting evaluations in college basketball following the late-season breakout play and injury."

Okeke will have a difficult decision in the weeks ahead as to whether he makes the jump to the NBA or comes back to Auburn for his junior season.