Horace Spencer (above) is a returning starter for the Tigers.
Although there have been limited full squad workouts going back to the start of summer session classes, the amount of time the coaches have with their players increases to 20 hours a week with the official start of the sport’s “preseason.”
The Tigers will feature a new-look roster with three true freshmen, two graduate transfer newcomers and a highly-regarded redshirt freshman, guard/forward Danjel Purifoy, who is academically eligible after having to sit out last season.
Pearl returns four starters with sophomore Horace Spencer back at the center/power forward position along with a trio of guards--senior T.J. Dunans, junior T.J. Lang and sophomore Bryce Brown.
Bryce Brown was Auburn's top three-point shooter last season as a freshman.
Dunans is the top returning scorer at 11.6 points per contest followed by sophomore guard Bryce Brown at 10.1 points per game and Lang at 7.1.
“I think we can score,” Pearl tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. “We have got to be able to defend, rebound and use our overall size and not get pushed around because we are light. We don’t have one big-bodied player.”
Spencer is the tallest returning scholarship player at six-foot-eight. He had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus after averaging 5.1 and 4.9 rebounds last season in his first collegiate season.
“Horace’s first contact practice was September 14th,” Pearl says. “He had been out for 12 weeks. He is way ahead of schedule with his rehab and his conditioning. What he missed was the ability to put on weight, not strength, and just the skill.”
Bruce Pearl is beginning his third season as coach of the Tigers.
Immediate help is expected from five-star guard recruit Mustapha Heron and four-star shooting point Jared Harper. The other true freshman signee, 6-7 three-star forward Anfernee McLemore, is expected to boost the team’s rebounding, which was a problem last season.
More immediate help is expected from the graduate transfers. Point guard Ronnie Johnson made the move from the University of Houston while 6-8 center/forward LaRon Smith came from Bethune-Cookman.
The Tigers added another transfer, 6-4, 230 guard/forward DeSean Murray, who will have to sit out this season after playing two seasons at Presbyterian in the Big South Conference where he was the league’s Freshman of the Year and an all-conference selection as a sophomore.
The Tigers finished last season 11-20 and 5-13 in the SEC. Injuries to guards Tahj Shamsid-Deen, who has had to give up basketball, along with Dunans hampered the Tigers. During conference play starting point guard and leading scorer Kareem Canty (18.3 points per game) was suspended and then quit the team. Shamsid-Deen was only able to play in five games due to shoulder injuries.
Other key players to replace include forwards Tyler Harris (13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds), Cinmeon Bowers (10.5 points, 9.6 rebounds) and Jordon Granger (4.7 points, 2.3 rebounds).
Other returning players include sophomore guard New Williams, senior forward Devin Waddell, junior guard Patrick Keim and sophomore forwards Cole Blackstock and Trey Tate. Freshmen walk-ons include 6-10 forward Heath Huff, 6-4 guard Will Macoy and 5-10 guard Mike Cohen.
The Tigers will play an exhibition game on Nov. 4th at Auburn Arena vs. Montevallo. A week later they open the regular season at home vs. North Florida.