When Auburn opens the new basketball season Thursday night with an exhibition against Division II Barry University, the Tigers will not have two of their top players in uniform.
Sophomore forward Danjel Purifoy and sophomore center Austin Wiley both will sit out indefinitely, the school announced Thursday morning. The decision is believed to be related to the federal investigation into bribery and corruption within college basketball.
“To avoid any potential eligibility issues, Auburn Athletics has decided to hold men’s basketball players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy out indefinitely,” Auburn’s statement read. “Because this is related to an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”
Auburn has been one of the schools at the center of the FBI probe since the September arrest of assistant coach Chuck Person on six federal charges, including solicitation of bribes and bribery conspiracy. The federal complaint alleged that Person received $91,500 in exchange for influencing two basketball players at Auburn to hire a cooperating FBI witness as their financial adviser.
Person allegedly told the FBI witness that he gave $11,000 to the mother of “Player-1” and $7,500 to the mother of “Player-2.” The announcement that Purifoy and Wiley are being held out indefinitely would appear to confirm that they’re the two players involved.
Purifoy, a former consensus top 100 recruit, averaged 11.5 points per game as a freshman and shot 36.9 percent from behind the arc. Wiley, a former five-star recruit and one of the mainstays of the gold medal-winning U.S. U-19 World Championship team this past summer, averaged 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks after joining the Tigers in late December last year.
Auburn has finished 11th or worse in the SEC in each of Bruce Pearl’s first three seasons, but the Tigers had hoped year four might be a breakthrough after welcoming a series of strong recruiting classes. The indefinite absence of Purifoy and Wiley will dampen that enthusiasm and diminish Auburn’s hopes of ascending in the SEC pecking order.
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