Injured Tigers Miss Hoops Madness

A report is featured on the Hoops Madness event start to Auburn's men's and women's basketball practice.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn fans were able to take their first look at the 2011-2012 men's and women's basketball teams on Friday night, but they weren't able to see pair of newcomers who are expected to be key contributors from Coach Tony Barbee's team.

Bernard Morena, a 6-8 forward from Central Park Christian in Birmingham, was unable to participate in the event, which for the men featured a short scrimmage, a slam dunk contest and a three-point shooting contest.

Morena suffered an ankle injury in a workout and he is expected to be sidelined for several weeks. The freshman had earned praised from Barbee for how he had been performing in preseason drills.

Noel Johnson, a six-foot-six guard who transferred to Auburn from Clemson, has an injured right arm and was a no-go on Friday night. He is scheduled to get medical tests next week to get more details on the extent of his problem. As a transfer he is not eligible to play in games until December when fall semester classes are completed.

"It's a fun night," Barbee said after the event ended. "It is for the fans. There are a lot of reasons why you do these types of events, and it is a great way to get the season tipped off.

"I think the guys had a lot of fun," the coach said. "You saw their personalities come out tonight. Like I told them, it is real tomorrow. As it is hard and we start our grind, I want them to have the same type of fun as we grind it out in the real practices."

Tony Barbee addresses the crowd.

Barbee admitted there was really no practice value to the session that lasted more than two hours on Friday night with the men's team splitting court time with Coach Nell Fortner's women's squad.

Morena's high school teammate, center Willy Kouassi, was impressive in the short scrimmage that ended the session. "You look out there tonight and I think one of them stood out like a sore thumb in Willy Kouassi," Barbee said. "That is why we recruited him, and that is what he does well. I think we counted in the first five trips up and down the floor, he had six rebounds.

"I don't know if any of our interior players averaged six rebounds for a game (last season), and in our first five trips, he had six rebounds. That's what he does. He has a knack of rebounding the ball. He has a knack of getting his hands on the ball. He has an unbelievable instinct for blocking shots, and he plays extremely hard."

Auburn's other freshman, guard Cedrick McAfee from Memphis, won praise from the head coach as did transfer point guard Varez Ward, who sat out last season after coming to Auburn from the University of Texas.

"I thought McAfee played well, too, of the newcomers," Barbee said. "He scores. He is electric, and he showed a little bit of that tonight.

"It was good to see Varez, even though he has been back off the injury and off the rehab, it was good to see him get that rust off of him and get in front of and play against some people."

In other news and notes from the event:

*Point guard Josh Wallace had the most impressive play of the scrimmage as he tossed in a long shot from past half-court to beat the final buzzer. Barbee praised Wallace's offseason work ethic that the coach predicts will make the walk-on a stronger and better player as a junior.

*Senior Kenny Gabriel was the big winner in the men's skills competition. He shared the slam dunk championship with sophomore guard Chris Denson, but had the more impressive dunks. Gabriel also won the three-point shooting contest.

Kenny Gabriel dunks during the contest.

The dunk contest judges included Marquis Daniels, Sonny Smith, John Mengelt, Jason Dufner and Kendall Simmons. Dufner, the pro golfer and former AU star, participated in the three-point shooting contest, but made just one shot. Barbee joked that Dufner shoots the basketball about as well as the coach putts a golf ball.

*The crowd was louder and more into the women's portion of the event. It included a dribbling contest won in impressive fashion by sophomore Camille Glymph, who was injured most of her freshman season. Newcomer Najat "Jet" Ourdad, a tiny point guard from France via Pensacola (junior) College, looked good in the dribbling contest.

Camille Glymph dribbles two balls while Jet Ourdad watches in the background.

*Junior Blanche Alverson, who wore a Dirk Nowitzki jersey for the three-point contest, was impressive with her shooting. Alverson is the leading returning scorer for the Tigers.

*Barbee's Tigers have four prospects in for official visits. The group includes Daniel Dingle from New York City, who is ranked as Scout.com's No. 28 power forward prospect. Auburn commitments Jordan Price and Shaq Johnson are in for official visits along with uncommitted 6-8 forward Jordon Granger from Florissant, Mo.

Members of the women's basketball teams invited fans to come on the court for a dance number with the players.

*It is also a big recruiting weekend for the women's team, with five high school seniors taking official visits. The group includes Nicole Tanner, a 6-2 post player from Hoover High who is an AU commitment and the sister of current Auburn player Tyrese Tanner.

Another Auburn commitment visiting is Chadarryl Clay, a 5-7 guard from Chattanooga, who is a big scorer who is ranked as a national Top 100 prospect. She chose Auburn over a large number of colleges including SEC and ACC schools.

Another visitor is Ariel Butts, an uncommitted 6-3 post player from Carver High in Columbus, Ga., who is looking at Georgia, Florida State, Rutgers and Auburn. She is considered one of the top prospects in the country. HoopGurlz ranks her as the No. 8 forward in the country.

Official visitor Nariah Taylor is a 6-4 post player from North Central High in Indianapolis. She is looking at Auburn, Notre Dame, Florida, Illinois and Georgia Tech.

Official visitor Breanna McDonald is a six-footer from Chamblee High in Lithonia, Ga. HoopGurlz ranks her as the No. 13 two guard prospect.

Auburn's other women's hoops commitment for the 2012 signee class is Cabrianna Capers, a 6-1 forward from Bolinbrook High near Chicago. She has already visited Auburn.

*Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson was in the crowd for the event.

*In the scrimmage point guard Ward hit his first two shots, both three-pointers.

*Post player Rob Chubb, who is up to 245 pounds, was impressive in the scrimmage scoring on the low block.


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