Despite Injuries, Hoop Tigers Making Progress

A report on the basketball Tigers is featured as they prepare for Friday night's exhibiton game vs. the EA Sports Southeast All-Stars.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Cliff Ellis says he has been pleased with what he has seen from his 2003-2004 basketball Tigers as Auburn prepares for the first of two exhibition games.

Friday at 7 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum the Tigers will play the EA Sports Southeast All-Stars. That will be the second half of a doubleheader following a game featuring the Auburn women's team and Premier Players, which is the only exhibition game for Coach Joe Ciampi's 25th-ranked defending WNIT champions.

Two of the major concerns in the preseason have been about the health of a pair of projected starters--senior center Kyle Davis and junior point guard Lewis Monroe.

Davis suffered an ankle sprain last week. The six-foot-10 center is back at practice, but has been limited the past two days. He and backup point guard Chris Lollar and injury-plagued forward Rodney Tucker are the team's only seniors.

"This reminds me of Kyle's freshman and sophomore seasons when he had a lot of injuries," Ellis says. "He seems to be injury-prone. He is just going to have to fight through it and do the best he can."

Kyle Davis has been the SEC's top shot blocker for each of the past three seasons.

Monroe has recovered from a hand injury, but rolled his ankle/foot at Tuesday evening's practice. Ellis says he is hopeful his top point guard will be ready for an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday.

Looking at the big picture for his team, which has been predicted by the media to finish second in the SEC West, Ellis says, "I think we are making progress. I really do. I think the difference between now and the last year or two is that we have experienced players. Our practices seem to be ahead of where they have been, but they should be."

In addition to Monroe and Davis, the other likely starters for the Tigers are junior forwards Marco Killingsworth and Brandon Robinson and junior guard Nathan Watson. Ellis says the starting lineup and playing rotation is still being determined.

"I think we need to keep working on that," the coach tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "We have only had two scrimmages. We have gone through two weeks of our four weeks of preseason practice so we have a lot more coming up. We are going to have a scrimmage Wednesday and then we have an exhibition game and then another exhibition game. I think we will come out of this weekend with a pretty good idea of what we are going to do."

Ellis and his coaches are keeping a close eye on a trio of junior college transfers--6-6, 210 forward Quinnel Brown, 6-5 guard/forward Ronny LeMelle and 6-3 guard Ian Young. "We are going to have to be patient," Ellis says. "Those three guys are going to help us, but it is going to take some time. We have a lot of players back, but we are not high in numbers of seniors this year with playing experience. This is basically a group we are going to have for the next two years and we are going to focus on getting stronger and stronger. I think we have a pretty good nucleus."

"I have kind of been pleased with all of them," Ellis says of his 10th Auburn basketball team. "The veterans are ahead of the newcomers, but I have seen progress from all of them. I want the newcomers to be patient and not get frustrated."

Auburn will play a second exhibition game vs. the Global Sports All-Stars before opening the regular season on Nov. 17th vs. College of Charleston.

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