Auburn, Ala.--Fans attending Auburn's Friday night exhibition basketball game vs. Montevallo should expect to see Coach Bruce Pearl giving plenty of court time to a variety of players.
“Right now we will play 10,” said Pearl, whose Tigers will go on public display at 8:30 p.m. CDT at Auburn Arena in the second half of a doubleheader with the AU women’s volleyball team playing Kentucky at 5:30 p.m.
Although the basketball game is a sellout standing room tickets are $10. Fans who are in the arena for the volleyball match can stay for the basketball exhibition game at no charge.
The contest will be the first outside competition for the Tigers other than a closed scrimmage last Saturday at UT-Chattanooga that the Tigers dominated.
“We played nine up at Chattanooga because T.J. Lang was out last week with back spasms and did not travel with us,”?Pearl said. “He is back this week, but we will play 10 guys and I think our strength is our depth in the sense that when we do go to the bench I think we drop off a little bit, but we bring in different dimensions.
“We don’t drop off a lot so I think there will continue to be (competition) for playing time, for roles, for starting positions as we continue to progress,” the coach noted. “We can withstand injury or foul trouble. I am not wishing for any more injuries or foul trouble. We had enough of that last year, but I feel very, very confident the 10 guys that I have out there are going to be able to play effectively.”
Pearl plans to open Friday’s game with three guards and two forwards in the starting lineup. The group includes three players making their AU debuts--6-7 redshirt freshman forward Danjel Purifoy, 5-10 freshman point guard Jared Harper and 6-5 freshman guard Mustapha Heron.
The top five guys off the bench include 6-0 senior point guard Ronnie Johnson, 6-8 senior post player LaRon Smith, 6-3 sophomore guard Bryce Brown, 6-8 freshman forward Anfernee McLemore along with Lang, a 6-7 junior who will play guard and forward.
Johnson, a graduate transfer from the University of Houston, was asked how he is fitting in with his new team and said, “I think everything is going good so far. I’m just trying to just lead from a senior perspective and just keep guys on the right path and keep moving forward each and every day.”
Ronnie Johnson (;eft) dribbles vs. Jared Harper.
The Tigers feature three true freshmen who have impressed the senior.
“I definitely thought they came in ready and prepared,” Johnson said. “Anfernee has been doing a great job playing as hard as he is, Jared also. Mustapha, too. I thought they’ve been doing a wonderful job. Even Danjel, he didn’t play last year. I think they’re going to be a big piece to this team.”
Johnson, who has also played for Purdue, was asked about the Tigers’ potential. “I think we’re really good,” he said. “I think in order to be really good we have to just continue to play together and continue to learn in terms of strengths and weaknesses. I think they sky is the limit when everyone gets playing together more.”
Worth Noting, Part 1: Montevallo, a Division II?program, has been to the NCAA Tournament 10 times in the past 12 seasons. Coach Danny Young has a 278-112 record and is in his 13th season in charge of the Falcons. Montevallo’s roster features seven seniors.
Worth Noting, Part 2: The Tigers scrimmaged at UT-Chattanooga last weekend and won by 36 points vs. the team expected to win the Southern Conference. Freshmen Heron and Harper had strong performances for the Tigers in the scrimmage along with redshirt freshmen Purifoy.
Up Next: The Tigers open the regular season at home on Friday, Nov. 11th at 8:30 p.m. vs. North Florida.