Justin Powell still battling head injury as Auburn basketball travels to South Carolina

Dec 30, 2020; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard JD Notae (1) is blocked

Bruce Pearl joked Friday that if Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is able to play in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, he might give Justin Powell a hard time.

Mahomes suffered a concussion on Sunday and cleared the NFL’s protocol Friday. The freshman Auburn guard suffered a concussion late in the first half of Auburn’s Jan. 2 loss at Texas A&M and has not played since.

Quickly, though, Pearl made clear that he wouldn’t do that. Concussions have different levels of severity. They affect every person differently. Powell is still dealing with his.

That’s why it appears likely that he will miss a sixth consecutive game Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN2), when Auburn (8-7, 2-5 SEC) plays at South Carolina (3-4, 1-2).

“Mentally, he’s struggling because he wants to be out there,” Pearl said. “But you can’t be out there if you still have symptoms and you’ve got headaches. He’s doing the best he can.”

Justin Powell after breakout game vs. South Alabama

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Powell is averaging 11.7 points on 42.9% shooting at the time of his injury. His 6.1 rebounds per game still lead the team, and his 4.7 assists rank behind only Sharife Cooper, who joined the lineup for the first time four games ago.

MORE: Freshman Justin Powell shining for Auburn basketball despite missing most of last 2 high school seasons

The two freshmen have not yet played together.

It’s not clear when they will, either. Pearl said the only time he sees Powell during the week is when players come in for COVID-19 testing – concussion protocol dictates that he is not allowed to be at practice unless he clears certain hurdles.

Powell did do that once, on Jan. 11, before Auburn’s game at Georgia. He progressed through the protocol enough that he was able to at least move around a little bit on the floor. But he didn’t respond great to that, Pearl said, and was shut down again.

He remains day to day.

“We won’t play him until he’s ready,” Pearl said last week.

Auburn will welcome him back whenever he is. Cooper was excellent in Wednesday’s loss at Arkansas, scoring 25 points on 9-for-19 shooting, but he had to play 37 minutes. That includes all but 72 seconds of the second half with Allen Flanigan – technically the third-string point guard – in foul trouble.

Powell’s return would give the Tigers a player capable of spelling Cooper at point guard as well as a dangerous outside shooter to pair with the five-star freshman.

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale. To reach him by email, click here.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Justin Powell still battling head injury as Auburn basketball travels to South Carolina

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