Auburn, Ala.--Currently without four scholarship guards who were being counted on to contribute this season, Coach Bruce Pearl is relying on senior Jordon Granger to make a positive difference for the Auburn basketball team.
A six-foot-nine senior who was a full-time starter last season at power forward, Granger said he had no reluctance making the move to guard and noted that he is feeling more comfortable in his new role. Pearl said that is showing in Granger’s play.
“It is tough, but I think Jordon has made that transition pretty easily,” Pearl pointed out. “When you are playing the four, you are covering four (power forward) and five (center), and when you are playing the three you are covering two (shooting guard) and three (shooting guard or small forward).”
Granger noted that he got off to a slow start dealing with nagging injuries this season, but said he is making progress. “Coach has really been putting me in a good position to be successful and I have been putting in extra time at the gym. I really think it is paying off.
“My effort and energy have been the highest they have ever been since I have been at Auburn,” Granger said. “I am finally learning the game and am becoming an impact on the game. That’s really helping me out with my confidence.”
The senior hopes to show what he has learned and be a difference-maker when he returns to his home state for a Saturday game vs. the Missouri Tigers. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CST for a contest that will be televised on ESPN2.
Missouri is 7-7 overall and 0-1 in the SEC. Auburn is 7-6 overall and 1-1 in the league.
Jordon Granger prepares to block a shot in Auburn's victory over Tennessee last Saturday.
Granger said he expects between 16-20 friends and family members to be at Mizzou Arena in Columbia to watch him play and said “it’s a lot of pressure” to do well while playing close to home.
A high school star McClure North in the St. Louis area, he was the Missouri player of the year as a senior while leading his team to a state championship. On last year’s trip to Columbia the home team held off Auburn 63-61. Granger played 31 minutes and contributed seven points, four rebounds with three assists and one steal.
Auburn is 0-2 all-time in trips to Columbia and 1-3 all-time vs. Missouri with the win coming 85-79 last January at Auburn Arena.
For Auburn to win on Saturday night, Granger pointed out the Tigers need to do a better job with their ball-handling than they did in an 81-69 loss to South Carolina on Tuesday night.
“We had a lot of turnovers during that game,” ?Granger said. “We just need to take care of the ball and get back in transition defense. We need to work on that for the Missouri game.”
Asked what led to the turnover problem vs. the Gamecocks, the senior said, “I guess it was just us. We have to focus on catching the ball with two hands and just calm it down. We kind of got a little herky-jerky with the pressure. but we started to calm down.”
The Tigers fell behind by as many as 18 points in the first half vs. South Carolina when they committed 15 turnovers. When they cut down on the miscues in the second half the Tigers cut the lead to five points, but didn’t have enough firepower to hand South Carolina its first loss of the season.
While in high school Granger was recruited by Missouri, but noted that wasn’t his favorite team. “To be honest, growing up I really was an Illinois fan because my family’s from East St. Louis in Illinois.”
Saturday’s game will be Auburn’s first SEC road game this season, but the fifth in which they have been the visiting team with the previous ones vs. Coastal Carolina, Middle Tennessee State, Xavier and Hawaii.
Granger predicted his team won’t let that prevent the Tigers from winning. “I feel like we’re battle-tested, playing four games in what, seven-day span, six-day span? It kind of got us mentally ready and prepared to go on the road against a tough Missouri team, who’s actually great at home. I see they’re 7-1 at home.”
After playing in Columbia the Tigers will be back on the road again with a Tuesday contest at Vanderbilt.
Auburn Hoops Notes: Freshman guard New Williams (knee injury) will be unable to go again on Saturday and joins guards Tahj Shamsid-Deen and T.J. Dunnans on the injured list. Another freshman guard, Danjel Purifoy, has not been cleared to play due to academic reasons...Junior guard Kareem Canty leads the Tigers in scoring at 19.5 points per contest and senior forward Tyler Harris is next at 15.0 per contest...Senior forward Cinmeon Bowers leads the Tigers in rebounding with 8.8 per game while Harris is next at 8.5 per contest...The radio broadcast on the Auburn Network is available on Sirius and XM channels 81.