Auburn, Ala.--On a basketball team short on tall guys this season, the Auburn Tigers need their few big players to step up and become key contributors.
One of those Tigers is sophomore Matthew Atewe, who was not full speed last season due to leg problems that required surgery.
After being very limited with what he could do in the early preseason practices this year, Atewe has advanced to the point he will have a chance to see significant playing time, starting with Friday night’s exhibition game vs. West Alabama.
“It’s been going pretty well,” Atewe tells Inside the Auburn Tigers on the subject of his recovery. “I have been doing a lot of practices and a lot of reps and stuff so it’s been good.
“My leg feels a lot better than it did in the past and I feel like I am more confident to sprint up and down the floor, jump and not think as much in regards to stuff like that,” he added.
Asked if he still has pain as he works on getting back to 100 percent, the six-foot-eight, 255-pounder said, “I do, but I’m just trying to manage it well.”
Matthew Atewe is shown working on his defense at practice.
Last season he competed in 24 games as a reserve and averaged 14.4 minutes of playing time per contest. He scored 1.5 points per game while adding 3.4 rebounds per outing.
“I felt like last year I was kind of getting pushed around a lot so I just wanted to work on my body, just get my body right so that way I wouldn’t be pushed around as much,” Atewe said. An extra 25 pounds of muscle should help.
Matthew Atewe plays defense last season vs. Florida.
Atewe notes that he has also been working on his conditioning with the Tigers planning to use a more up-tempo style of play with Bruce Pearl taking over as head coach.
“I feel like we are going to be pretty fast, a lot faster team than last year,” Atewe pointed out. “I feel like a lot of the running that we have been doing has helped. I have been working on it so we’ll see how it all goes.”
Atewe and the Tigers will play the University of West Alabama in a game that will tip off at 8:30 p.m. at Auburn Arena. Seats to the contest have been sold out for several weeks, but standing room tickets are on sale.
The sophomore power forward/center hopes that Tiger fans will see him earn more playing time this season. “I feel like my role will probably be a little bit expanded this year so I’m just working my hardest to do what I need to do,” he said.