Tyler Harris (above) is expeced to be a key performer for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--Newcomer Tyler Harris said he is looking forward to his first regular season basketball game as an Auburn player as well as helping the Tigers take on a demanding pre-conference schedule.
The six-foot-ten graduate student transfer from Providence College is expected to be in the starting lineup at forward when the Tigers take on UAB at 8:30 p.m. CST on Friday at Auburn Arena. It will be part of a doubleheader with the women’s team, which will tip off at 5:30 p.m. vs. UAB.
“Absolutely, I am excited,” Harris said about starting the regular season. “I can’t wait. It’s going to be an exciting game. I can’t wait to be able to play in this gym and see the atmosphere. That’s going to be fun.”
The UAB game, which is a sellout, is expected to be a major test for Coach Bruce Pearl’s second Auburn team. The Blazers have all five starters back from a squad that defeated Iowa State in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and are known as a strong rebounding group. Auburn will be short-handed for the contest with starting guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen out with a shoulder injury. Freshman guard Bryce Brown is unavailable due to a one-game suspension and another freshman guard, New Williams, is labeled as "doubtful" for Friday's game by Pearl due to a knee problem.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us because a lot of those guys go to the glass,” Harris said. “We are definitely going to need to throw that first punch and be more aggressive and hold our ground against this team.”
In Auburn’s two exhibition victories, Harris averaged 17 points and 7.0 rebounds. Asked how he thought he performed, he said, “I think I did well. I?am just getting used to the new calls on fouls and stuff like that, and guarding the new position. I’m going to be able to adjust and continue to get better.”
Harris averaged 11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds as a sophomore at Providence. Last season he averaged 9.9 points and 4.0 rebounds.
Pearl said the focus for the entire Auburn team is to improve defensively prior to playing UAB and that Harris is no exception. “Tyler does need to defend better, but when you can score 18 points in 20 minutes you know he’s really, really effective offensively in so many ways--rebounding, passing, shooting and putting the ball on the floor. He’s a really good offensive player and I do need him to defend better and I do need him to lead better.”
Commenting on the defense, Harris agrees with Pearl that the Tigers need to do better in that area after outscoring Indianapolis 114-109 in their second exhibition game.
“Defense wins championships and we know we need to step up our defense,” Harris said. “We know we have a great offensive team and we can be an outstanding defensive team. We just need the mindset and come together and it will happen.
“The team is coming along great,” he adds. “We have still got a lot of things to work on, but we’re getting better day by day. If we just worry about what we can control now we’ll continue to improve.”
Improvement is necessary if the Tigers are going to be competitive against an upgraded schedule, something that Harris said he is in favor of playing.
“That’s great for us,”?he said. “It will get us ready for SEC play and the teams that come.”
Harris said he has respect for UAB. "This is a great team and they had a great year last year and most of their whole team is coming back this year so we are looking forward to playing them. It is going to be a great test for us."