Tigers Open Preseason With Two Practices

The Auburn men's basketball team returned to the basketball opened preseason drills with a scrimmage on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee's Auburn basketball Tigers opened the two-a-days portion of their preseason workouts with the first session featuring a scrimmage and the second practice devoted to defense.

Despite the majority of the team being newcomers the Tigers were able to operate smoothly on offense and defense thanks to the head start they got on the season when they won a pair of exhibition games in The Bahamas.

Senior Allen Payne noted it was no surprise that the Tigers looked like they knew what they were doing on Saturday. "Scrimmaging is something we have been doing a lot this summer," said Payne, who was on-target with his three-point shots from the wing at Saturday's session.

"We are really trying to set a tone about building our identity as a good defensive team that plays with toughness," Payne said.

Allen Payne is up 15 pounds from his junior to his senior season.

The 2013-14 squad looks like it will feature more good shooters than Barbee's previous Auburn teams, all which included Payne on the roster. "We have more talent than we have had since I have been here and it is showing on the floor," said Payne, a six-foot-six, 220-pound forward. "We are playing with a lot more confidence.

Freshman seven-footer Benas Griciunas was effective scoring inside and beyond the three-point line in the scrimmage. Six-foot-seven junior college transfer Chris Griffin, who was a good scorer for the Tigers in their exhibition games, looks like he will be a threat to attack defenses both inside and outside.

Freshman forward Benas Griciunas makes a move to score inside against senior center Asahun Dixon-Tatum in Saturday's scrimmage.

Freshman point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen did a good job of feeding the big men, particularly senior center Asahun Dixon-Tatum, who threw down slam dunks while also scoring on turn-around jumpers.

Payne noted that he has higher expectations for his senior season's team and Barbee said he does, too, although the coach said the first day of practice was just "decent" on Saturday.

"This is a hungry bunch, a different bunch," Barbee said of his team that has been forecast to be at or near the bottom of the SEC this year.

"We have competitors, guys who are competing and want to win at a high level," he said. "They are doing it together so what the other people think about you, I have never thought that mattered. It is what you think about yourself, what you believe about yourself and what you can accomplish. This group believes, as a whole, we can accomplish something special this year."

Coach Tony Barbee (left) talks with former Auburn guard John Mengelt, an All-American for the Tigers.

Barbee pointed out that the Tigers opened preseason practice with a solid understanding of what they are doing both offensively and defensively thanks to the summer exhibition games, which he noted were "huge"?for his team.

"Because we have so many new guys, the learning curve was sped up because of all of the opportunities we had to practice this summer," the coach said. "Playing the games was invaluable, but more importantly with the 10 days of practice we had for all the new guys we are so far ahead of the curve right now. It's good to be in that position."

Shamsid-Deen, a lefty point guard, looks like he is a threat to earn a starting spot as a freshman while sharing playing time with junior Malcolm Canada, who is also a newcomer.

"The first practice was okay," Shamsid-Deen said. "I think it went pretty well, but we will definitely pick up the intensity as we go along."

Barbee pointed out that he likes what he is seeing from the freshman, who led his team to three state titles as a high school star at Columbia High School in Decatur, Ga. "He sees the floor like a point guard should," the coach said.

News and Notes: The Tigers opened practice with a healthy roster. The only player on the sideline was seven-foot freshman center Ronald Delph. Barbee noted that it is still to be determined if the signee out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., will be academically eligible to play this season. Delph is expected to redshirt this season.

Former NBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medal Charles Barkley attended Saturday's practice.

Charles Barkley, the most famous basketball player in Auburn history, was at the practice. He was town to participate in Barbee's golf tournament fundraiser for charity. Among the other Auburn standouts at the scrimmage were Marquis Daniels, John Mengelt Gerald White and Chris Morris and pro golf star Jason Dufner. Former Auburn head coach Sonny Smith and one of his former assistants, Tevester Anderson, were at the practice...Auburn will play an exhibition game on Oct. 28th vs. Victory University...The Tigers will go on public display on Friday at 7 p.m. at their Jungle Jam Madness practice that will feature Grammy Award winner Ludacris and comedic actor Mike Epps. Doors open at 6 p.m. for that event at Auburn Arena...The Tigers will open the regular season on Nov. 8th with a home game vs. Nicholls State.

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