Auburn has had a rough start to the season, not only has a worldwide pandemic just about all but taken away Auburn’s home-court ref harassers, “the Jungle,” but an eligibility dispute sat the Tigers best player on the bench for their first 11 games. The Tigers were able to start out 6-2 before quickly falling to .500 a few games later on Sharife’s first collegiate game. That game was against the Crimson Tide and Sharife led or tied for the most in every offensive category, including turnovers. Sharife was able to pour on 26 points, 9 assists, 3 steals in a game that, without Cooper, may have been a much larger loss. Cooper was paramount in keeping the Tigers competitive to the very end, a trait that he has shown all 4 of his games this season, regardless of any growing pains along the way.
In his four games, saying Sharife has been great would be an understatement. He has immediately come in and taken over the brunt of the scoring load, averaging 22.5, with a season low 11 against Kentucky bringing it down. He has also been dishing the ball like a seasoned vet, averaging 8.3 assists per game, 4 more than the next highest, Justin Powell. Also stealing the ball 1.5 times per game, one of only three players averaging one or more a game.
While it would be a lie to say that Sharife has not produced, he has not been immune from his fair share of issues. He is currently leading the team in turnovers per game, with 4.5, however with him being the main ball handler now this is to be somewhat expected. So while 4.5 per game could certainly go down, his assist to turnover ratio is sitting right around 2:1 right now. A big issue that can be seen just by watching games is Cooper’s tendency to put up ill-advised shots, whether that be a contested layup or a covered jumper. Once again this is to be expected though, Cooper is a young player that has been given the duty of being the team’s main scorer. So, with time the contested misses should go down and be replaced with a more savvy game. The biggest issue in his game however is the three point shooting. In the four games he has played in he is averaging a team low 13.6% from beyond the arc. There is always a silver lining though, this flaw seems fixable. Sharife is currently averaging 76.3% from the free throw line, second on the team, so it seems that the form and follow through are there, it is just extending that beyond the arc.
All in all, Auburn has been playing much better down the stretch with their former five star recruit bringing the ball down the court for the Tigers. Just like any other young player, Cooper has flaws to work through. Even with the flaws he is already arguably the best player on the team. Auburn basketball’s point guard position is in good hands for the foreseeable future.