When Chuma Okeke went down in Auburn’s win over No. 1-seed North Carolina, Danjel Purifoy was called on to step in.

In his junior season, Purifoy is a former 4-star recruit, who was rated the top player from the state of Alabama (Centerville) in his recruiting class on the 247Sports Composite. Purifoy has been a backup to Okeke all season. Rather than transfer, Purifoy embraced his bench role.

“Think it’s a great lesson for teams. Danjel is playing behind a great player in Chuma,” Pearl told reporters after Friday’s big win. “Danjel is very good. He could have packed his bags and waited until next year or some other opportunity, and instead he stayed ready, and so many guys are thinking about, ‘Well, where can I now go to get more shots or more playing time?’

“And even though he was only playing what, five, ten minutes a game, these guys did a great job of encouraging Danjel and making sure Danjel understood, ‘Hey, we need you and you got to be ready if your number gets called.’ As a result, we beat North Carolina to go to the Elite Eight because he stayed ready.”

In 12 minutes of playing time, Purifoy provided 12 points, coming from four 3-pointers. He also snagged two rebounds in AU’s 97-80 upset win.

The Okeke injury made Auburn’s win over the Tar Heels bittersweet for the Tigers faithful. Getting to cheer for a positive story in Purifoy should help.