Bird Ready To Take Shot At NBA Dream

Ypsilanti, Mich.--Few guards in Auburn University basketball history have played defense with more intensity or better results than Derrick Bird.

Bird is one of two key seniors from the 2002-2003 team that the Tigers must replace for the upcoming season. His friend and former Auburn teammate Marquis Daniels wasn't drafted by the NBA, but has signed to play in the league with the Dallas Mavericks.

Bird has NBA dreams, too, and just received some good news that he will get his shot with his home-state team, the Detroit Pistons.

"I am really excited about the opportunity to go to training camp with the Pistons," Bird tells Inside the Auburn Tigers.

Bird, who graduated spring semester at Auburn, played a key role in leading the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 as a senior. Always willing to take the challenge of trying to stop the opponent's top offensive player, the six-foot-four guard hopes that his defensive skills can earn him a roster spot with the Pistons. "I have been working out all summer and I am in great shape," Bird says. "I am going to give it my best shot."

Derrick Bird is shown in action as an Auburn basketball player.

Playing last season for the 22-12 Tigers, he started each game and averaged 9.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per contest. He hit 41 percent of his field goals and 81.2 percent of his free throws. He played some of his best basketball in big games, including postseason contests.

Bird says he plans to keep up with the Tigers, who will be led this season by a trio of juniors in forwards Marco Killingsworth and Brandon Robinson plus point guard Lewis Monroe. Senior Kyle Davis returns to handle the center position.

However, the biggest recent news concerning Auburn basketball has not been about its possibilities for the upcoming season. Bird says he has heard the news that the Tigers received an official NCAA letter of inquiry on charges of illegal recruiting concerning offers of money and a car to a recruit. He says he finds those accusations ludicrous.

"From the time Coach Young (Charlton Young) started recruiting me until the time I graduated, Auburn was straight up all the way," Bird says. "They didn't offer me a car or any money or anything illegal and didn't offer anybody else on the team anything like that. I have no idea what is all about. Being a part of the program at Auburn I know those charges just don't make any sense. All of the coaches at Auburn are good people and I am sad they are having to go through this."

Bird, who was an honor student at Ypsilanti, Mich., High School, signed with Central Michigan as a high school senior. He suffered a knee injury and redshirted in 1998-99. He played one season for the Chippewas and then transferred to Schoolcraft College, one of the nation's top junior college programs where he attracted the attention of Auburn coaches and other colleges. He picked Auburn and was a key player for the Tigers in his two seasons playing for Coach Cliff Ellis.

Bird's 2002-2003 Tigers bounced back from an SEC Tournament semi-finals loss to Kentucky to defeat St. Joseph's and Wake Forest in NCAA Tournament play before losing 79-78 to eventual national champion Syracuse in Albany, New York to end the season.

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