Basketball Tigers Stay Up Late To Open Season

Auburn's basketball coach termed the Midnight Mayhem practice a success.

Auburn, Ala.--Cliff Ellis was a busy basketball coach on Friday evening.

He started his evening with Ladies Night Out With Cliff Ellis, a charity fundraiser at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, and finished it around 1 a.m. on Saturday by watching a short intrasquad game to mark the start of his 10th season as head coach of the Tigers. In between his first and final activities, the coach sang for the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum crowd, performed with The Bishop Brothers, made an entrance to the Midnight Mayhem practice on a motorcycle and watched his Tigers participate in slam dunk and three-point shooting displays. Junior forward Brandon Robinson and walk-on Jamaal Arnold tied for first place in the slam dunk competition.

The more serious business of preparing for the 2003-2004 season begins with a noon practice on Saturday. However, Ellis said he enjoyed the late night activities even though he did admit after it was over it was time for him to get to sleep.

All of the Tigers were present or accounted for on the court at 12:01 a.m. Junior point guard Lewis Monroe, one of 10 returning lettermen from an NCAA Sweet 16 team, injured a finger in an individual workout earlier in the week and is expected to miss several days of practice. Freshman center Dwayne Curtis, who is not yet academically eligible, was not allowed to participate in the activities. Curtis is hoping to be eligible for games in time for Auburn's road trip to Las Vegas just before Christmas.

Junior forward Brandon Robinson prepares to before making his at a slam dunk.

In addition to winning the slam dunk contest, Robinson was the leading scorer in the 15-minute scrimmage with a running clock. He finished the evening with 14 points and five rebounds while displaying his inside and outside game. Senior center Kyle Davis scored 14 points and added five rebounds. Junior forward Marco Killingsworth scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds.

Juco transfer Ronnie LeMelle scored eight points and added four rebounds. Another junior college transfer, Quinnel Brown, scored seven points. Nathan Watson added six points while newcomers Ian Young, a juco transfer guard, and walk-on guard Bret Howell chipped in with five points apiece.

"You know what was great about this is that we were able to bring the fans here and we had a great crowd," Ellis said. "This was a good way to unveil the Sweet 16 flag from last season for the players who have been here."

The Tigers almost advanced past the Sweet 16 round, but lost by a single point to eventual NCAA champion Syracuse last March in Albany, New York.

Ellis said he thought the public practice, which attracted several thousand fans, was good for the newcomers to give them a chance to play in front of fans on their new homecourt. "Tonight was a fun activity," Ellis says. "Saturday we crank it up."

The Tigers open their exhibition game season on Friday, Nov. 7th vs. the visiting EA Sports All-Stars at 7 p.m. in the second half of a doubleheader with the women's team, which faces Premier Players at 5 p.m. The Tigers open the regular season on Nov. 17th at Beard-Eaves Coliseum vs. College of Charleston in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Classic.

Ra'Sean Dickey

Among the interested spectators at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum was one of the nation's top high school prospects, Ra'Sean Dickey, a 6-8 power forward from Bennettsville, S.C., who was taking in the action during his official recruiting visit to Auburn. Georgia Tech looks to be Auburn's main competition to sign Dickey.

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