University of Alabama coach Nate Oats fully expects Auburn star freshman point guard Sharife Cooper, who has missed the Tigers’ last two games with an ankle injury, to suit up and play when both teams tip-off on Tuesday night inside Coleman Coliseum (6 p.m, ESPN2).
Before his injury, Cooper was averaging 20.2 points, 8.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds and one steal in 12 games.
He missed Auburn’s first 11 games of the year due to eligibility questions before being cleared hours before playing the Crimson Tide back on Jan. 9 in Auburn Arena, which Alabama won in thrilling fashion 94-90.
Cooper was ruled doubtful/questionable by Auburn coach Bruce Pearl on Monday morning.
“I think I’ve used doubtful before and the kid still ended up playing,” Oats told the media on Monday afternoon. “We are planning on him playing. It’s a rivalry game. I’m sure they are putting all their chips in the middle on the table on this one. So I’m planning on the kid playing.
“Our scouting report all day today was on him playing. Last time we played them, we didn’t know he was playing and he killed us. We had to adjust on the fly. This time we will be ready. I think it’s easier to adjust for someone not playing when you have already planned on them playing versus the other way around.”
Cooper scored a team-high 26 points on 8-of-19 shooting, dished out nine assists and recorded three steals in his collegiate debut versus Alabama.
Despite his status up in the air, Pearl also noted that the Powder Springs, Ga. product would be making the trip to Tuscaloosa.
“My guess would be [Cooper] is in uniform,” Oats said. “We had our scout player with the No. 2 jersey on all day in practice, obviously he doesn’t look like Sharife but we tried to emulate it the best we could.”