Dreams became reality for former Auburn star Isaac Okoro Wednesday night when he was chosen with the No. 5 overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Okoro’s selection is tied for the third-highest selection in program history behind only Chris Morris (No. 4, 1988) and Chuck Person (No. 4, 1986). Charles Barkley was chosen No. 5 in the 1984 NBA Draft.
The Powder Springs, Ga. native became the first one-and-done player in program history.
“I feel like it was my work ethic,” Okoro said. “I stayed in the gym early mornings and late nights, always finding a coach to go to the gym with me and get shots up. I feel like I just got better every day.
“I put the work in every single day. I had people around my circle that helped me out. I feel great and blessed to be here.”
Okoro was just the sixth player in Southeastern Conference history to be named All-SEC, All-Defensive and All-Freshman in the same season.
“Character counts,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “He’s a winner. He’s the best defensive player in the draft. He can guard 1 through 5. He can keep little point guards in front of him, and if he switches off on the inside, you’re not going to big-boy him. He can get downhill and he can score through contact. The ball doesn’t stick in his hands. When that ball moves, if he’s open, he’s going to shoot it or he’s going to drive it or he’s going to move it along.
“He’s going to do what the coach asks him to do. He’s not going to come into Cleveland and go, ‘this is who I am. Use me the way I am supposed to be used.’ He’s going to say, ‘Coach, what do you want me to do?’ and he’s going to go do it.”
Following Okoro’s No. 5 selection and Chuma Okeke’s No. 16 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Auburn has produced back-to-back first round draft picks for the first time in program history.
Okoro averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, two assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks in 31.5 minutes per game while starting 28 games as a first-year player in senior-laden lineup. The Tigers posted a 25-6 record during the 2019-20 campaign.
Okoro scored in double figures 20 times and was named the SEC Freshman of the Week twice, becoming just the fourth freshman in program history to earn the conference distinction two times in a season.
Okoro is the second Tiger to be drafted by the Cavaliers, joining Mike Mitchell, who was taken with the 15th selection of the 1978 NBA Draft. Along with Mitchell (1978-82), former lettermen Eddie Johnson (1985-86) and Wesley Person (1997-2002) both played for the Cavs.