Auburn's Sharife Cooper Declares for 2021 NBA Draft, Plans to Hire Agent

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2021

Auburn guard Sharife Cooper (2) plays against Vanderbilt during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

Auburn Tigers freshman guard Sharife Cooper has declared for the 2021 NBA draft. 

Cooper told ESPN's Jonathan Givony about his decision to turn pro. 

"This season was a roller coaster filled with many ups and some downs," Cooper said. "But I wouldn't trade it for anything; even through the bad times, I enjoyed every second at Auburn."

Givony noted that Cooper will hire an agent, forgoing his remaining college eligibility. 

The 6'1", 180-pound Georgia prep star had an excellent season for Auburn, averaging 20.2 points and 8.1 assists per game. Despite his fantastic numbers, however, the Tigers struggled in the 2020-21 campaign, finishing 13-14. 

Auburn wasn't eligible for the SEC or NCAA tournaments this season because of a self-imposed postseason ban as part of the fallout from the bribery scandal involving former assistant coach Chuck Person. 

In January, The Athletic's Sam Vecenie projected Cooper to be a second-round pick. It was an indication of just how quickly he has continued to rise up draft boards, however, that Givony and Mike Schmitz ranked him the No. 9 prospect for the 2021 draft just a month later. 

And Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected him to be the No. 24 overall pick in his most recent mock draft. Wasserman noted in February that Cooper has "translatable playmaking skills fueled by his creative ball-handling and terrific live-dribble passing," though he added there are some concerns about his shooting and finishing. 

Regardless, it's clear Cooper will receive first-round consideration. Given that, it's hardly surprising he's making the leap. 

"Usually with freshmen there's a learning curve to the speed and pace of the college game," an NBA scout told Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. "With Cooper he looks like he's been playing the college game for four years with how comfortable and confident he is on the court."

Cooper looks like a prospect who will settle into the late lottery to mid-first round at the 2021 draft.