Auburn, Ala.--An Auburn basketball team that has faced roster challenges since opening day has more of them to deal with as the Tigers play the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday in Athens at Stegeman Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. CST.
Sophomore guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen, who reinjured his left (shooting) shoulder on Tuesday night, is being shut down for the season. He needs surgery on both shoulders. The first operation is scheduled for Thursday.
Senior guard Antoine Mason, who has been in the New York City since Wednesday to be with his ailing father, Anthony Mason, was listed as questionable for the Georgia game, but has rejoined the team and is expected to play vs. the Bulldogs. His dad, a former NBA all-star, is trying to recover from a heart attack.
Antoine Mason is shown in action during Auburn's last road game, a win at LSU.
Asked how the Tigers are going to deal with the issues at guard, Pearl said, “It will mean that K.C. Ross-Miller will have to play a lot more and stay out of foul trouble. Malcolm (Canada) can still play the position.
“Patrick (Keim), who is a walk-on from Birmingham, is our third point guard and ready to go,” Pearl said of the 6-2 freshman, who was a second team All-State player last season for Class 6A state champion Mountain Brook High.
“The rotation on the wings is really K.T. (Harrell) and T.J. Lang,” Pearl said. “T.J. is even being looked at as a possible starter.
“We are thin at the point, and we are thin on the wing, so our numbers are down,” Pearl said. “We have been in eight scholarship situations before. We don’t like to be in that situation right now. Certainly Tahj and Antoine were two of our top four players in our rotation, and it is going to be difficult to compete without them.”
The Tigers have experience playing without Mason, who missed six games early in the season with a severe ankle injury that continued to bother him after he returned. Despite those issues, Mason is the team’s No. 2 scorer at 14.7 points per game, trailing Harrell, who is averaging 17.6.
Shamsid-Deen had missed just one game due to his shoulder problems and has won praise from his head coach for showing toughness to play through pain. Pearl has also called Shamsid-Deen the team’s best defender. The sophomore has been averaging 5.6 points per game this season and since he got to college he has scored 8.0 per contest.
“Unfortunately, this has been his fifth or sixth dislocation and a couple on each shoulder,” Pearl says. “He has never had a separated shoulder up until this year. He is going to need surgery on both shoulders and he is going to shut down.
“It was something that it got to the point whether to decide whether or not he should go for a loose ball or set a screen,” Pearl said. “He got off to a great start against Arkansas, and there was a point where he could have knocked out the ball and got a turnover, but chose not to and moments later the opportunity presented itself and he did and wasn’t able to keep that shoulder in. At this point we don’t want there to any more damage. He has been a real warrior battling through pain.”
In the team’s exhibition victory over West Alabama, sophomore center Matthew Atewe suffered a leg injury and was lost for the season.
The Tigers, who are 11-13 overall and 3-8 in the SEC, have also dealt with injuries to Jordon Granger and Ross-Miller during Pearl’s first season on the Plains.
Saturday’s opponent for the Tigers is a Georgia team that is 16-7 overall and 7-4 in the league after picking up an impressive 62-53 victory at Texas A&M on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs feature one of the league’s top forwards, 6-8, 235 senior Marcus Thornton, who is averaging 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds. Another senior forward, 6-8, 230 Nemanja Djurisic, is averaging 11.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Coach Mark Fox is expected to start three guards. Charles Mann is a 6-5 junior who is averaging 11.2 points, 6-3 junior Kenny Gaines is scoring 11.3 points per contest and 5-10 sophomore J.J. Frazier is gives UGA a fifth player averaging in double figures at 10.6 points per outing.
“Georgia is solid,” Pearl said. “They are veteran--these kids have been together for two or three years. They could’ve been there last year had they gotten off to a better start in the non-conference. At the end of the year anybody could have told you they were right there with Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee, and we know what kind of run those three teams had in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
“They have size,” Pearl added. “They’re physical. Mark Fox is an outstanding coach. I competed against him a couple of times my last two years at Tennessee. I was .500 against him. They run good stuff that suits their personnel. They are physical, they’re strong. They’re not real deep and at some point that could be a factor for them in their run.”
TV Coverage: The game will be telecast on Fox Sports South.
AU vs. UGA: Auburn won last year’s meeting 74-67 to cut Georgia’s lead in the series to 90-89.
Tajh’s Surgery: Noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews is scheduled to operate on Shamsid-Deen next week. The guard will have to wait until later in the year to have his right shoulder repaired.
Up Next: The Tigers will return to Auburn Arena for an 8 p.m. CST tipoff on Tuesday vs. Alabama.