AUBURN, Ala. — As expected, Auburn basketball will most likely be without two of its top players for its season opener Friday night against Norfolk State (8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT).
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said Thursday morning there are no new updates in the status of sophomore center Austin Wiley and sophomore forward Danjel Purifoy.
The two players are sitting indefinitely due to eligibility concerns stemming from a federal corruption case that led to the arrest of former assistant coach Chuck Person. A federal complaint stated Wiley and Purifoy’s families received a combined $18,500 from Person and co-defendant Rashan Michel, who were indicted Tuesday.
“The eligibility status, I get a report day-to-day,” Pearl said Thursday. “And right now, those two guys, as of this afternoon, those two guys are eligible to practice but not compete. I don’t have any updates on any changes.”
Auburn lost an exhibition game to Division II school Barry in overtime last Thursday, several hours after Wiley and Purifoy were announced as indefinitely out for competition.
Pearl maintained Thursday morning that he does not know of a timeline for getting Wiley and Purifoy cleared to play.
On Wednesday, an ESPN report claimed Pearl was in danger of losing his job for not cooperating in the school’s investigation into the scandal involving Person and members of Wiley and Purifoy’s families.
“I don’t know where they’re at in the process,” Pearl said. “I just know who is eligible, and I know who is going to be at practice. If there was a change, they’d notify me. And there is no change.”
Without Wiley and Purifoy, who both have practiced with the Tigers this week, Auburn will still most likely use 9- or 10-man rotation against Norfolk State on Friday night.
Junior Horace Spencer and sophomore Anfernee McLemore have split time at Wiley’s center position. Sophomore Mustapha Heron and junior transfer Malik Dunbar worked at Purifoy’s preferred small forward spot, although Pearl said Thursday undersized power forward Desean Murray could play there moving forward.
“I would say the frontcourt guys are pretty even,” Pearl said. “Somebody’s got to start, somebody’s got to finish. I think it’s possible for Desean Murray to begin to start playing some small forward, which would mean more minutes for Chuma Okeke. That’s a possible adjustment.”
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