Cinmeon Bowers (above) has dropped 30 pounds to improve his quickness for his senior season.
Auburn, Ala.--Bruce Pearl has made major changes in his roster for his second season as head basketball coach of the Auburn Tigers and that will be reflected in the starting lineup for Friday’s exhibition game vs. Brevard College.
Only one of the five expected starters for the 7 p.m. tipoff, senior forward Cinmeon Bowers, has played a game for the Tigers.
The other four likely starters include 6-10, 228 graduate student transfer forward Tyler Harris, 6-5 juco transfer guard T.J. Dunans, 6-1 point guard Kareem Canty, who redshirted last year, and 6-2 true freshman guard New Williams.
Tyler Harris (above) averaged 9.9 points and 4.4 rebounds last season at Providence College.
The game at Auburn Arena will be the first-ever matchup between the Tigers and the Tornados, a Division II?team from the South Atlantic Conference that finished 12-17 last season.
Pearl was certainly prepared to start a new lineup to open the 2015-16 season, but injuries have impacted his playing rotation.
Junior guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen is expected to miss a month of games with a shoulder injury, sophomore guard T.J. Lang is likely to be out for several weeks with a knee sprain while freshman guard Bryce Brown has been having back problems and is questionable for the opener. Pearl said that Shamsid-Deen has been playing very well on offense and defense this preseason and his absence will be felt.
Additionally, freshman guard Danjel Purifoy, a four-star recruit, has not been academically cleared to play making the Tigers very short on numbers and experience at the guard spots. Purifoy has been practicing with the team since the summer, but when, or if, he will play this season is not known.
Pearl points out that Brown and Lang are two of the team’s top outside shooters and will also be missed. The coach said he expects Brevard to try to play a tight defense near the basket while giving the Tigers opportunities to make three-pointers.
“We are going to get open looks against Brevard and T.J. Lang and Bryce Brown are guys who are pretty much money,” Pearl said. “Other guys will just have to step up and make shots. I know watching practice and looking at what we get, you are going to get some looks on the perimeter and I know for sure those guys were disappointed that they couldn’t go.”
The top returning scorer for Brevard College is 6-3, 210 junior foward Miles Leathers, who averaged 11.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season. The Tornados are expected to start a small lineup that features a 6-8 center, 6-7 forward and guards who are 6-1 and 5-10.
“Brevard is extremely well-coached, and I say that from a standpoint of they run Princeton (pattern offense) and they run it really, really well,”?Pearl says. “So when you are a more talented team, which we clearly are, it’s hard to get those guys who are going to be smaller, the harder you try to disrupt them, the more Princeton works. It is sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
“We are just going to have to hang in there and deal with it,” he adds. “It is just a hard offense to guard, and they do it really well, but there are Princeton elements to a lot of offenses so the great thing about this opponent coached by Lee Burgess, who is outstanding, is because there are elements of Princeton in so many of the offenses that we go up against. It will expose us and give us an opportunity to work on some things.
“The other thing they do is they run a little bit of matchup zone and that is something that will be different as well,” Pearl adds. “It is clearly a different prep.”
Horace Spencer signed with the Tigers as a four-star center prospect. He is expected to be a key performer off the bench.
The Tigers will play another exhibition game at home on Nov. 5th vs. Indianapolis University before opening the regular season on Nov. 13th at home vs. UAB.
Hoops Notes: Tickets for Friday’s contests are $10 or $7 depending on the location and there is no TV coverage. A radio broadcast of the game can be heard at auburntigers.com...Pearl likes to line up challenging schedules. This year the Tigers could play up to 22 of their 29 regular season games vs. teams that participated in postseason tournaments last season with up to 14 games vs. 2015 NCAA Tournament teams...Pearl’s .745 winning percentage (475-163) is the second best of any SEC head coach...Junior forward Devin Waddell enters the season as a scholarship player for the first time. Waddell, who is from Greensboro, N.C., started the final game of the 2014-15 season vs. Kentucky in the SEC Tournament where he held the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick, Karl-Anthony Towns, to a game without a field goal made...Bowers is Auburn’s top returning scorer and rebounder. He averaged 12.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest and finished second in the SEC in rebounds per game.