Basketball Tigers Lose Key Player To Injury

A report on Auburn's Wednesday basketball game is featured with comments from Cliff Ellis and and players.

Auburn, Ala.--Lewis Monroe, the point guard who helped lead Auburn's run into the NCAA Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 last season, received some sour news on Wednesday. The junior is expected to miss a significant portion of the season due to a foot injury.

The six-foot-five Monroe sat on the sidelines with his crutches on Wednesday as the Tigers had their third major intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason. Monroe said he was doing OK, but the look in his eyes told a story of disappointment at being sidelined near the start of what was expected to be his best season based on his strong finish last year and strong preseason start. However, less than 24 hours earlier, while fighting through traffic on the baseline, he broke a bone in his foot and is expected to have surgery this week.

Lewis Monroe could be back in time for the early part of the conference season that begins in January.

Coach Cliff Ellis said on Wednesday night he is not sure when Monroe will be back. At Wednesday's scrimmage junior Ian Young and senior Chris Lollar were battling each other while manning the point guard position. Young, a juco transfer, had also been playing some shooting guard, but he is expected to devote most of his time to the point until Monroe can play again.

Ellis said that losing Monroe is a blow, but noted that he liked what he saw in the scrimmage from Lollar and Young, who both had solid performances. Playing four eight-minute quarters with game officials, Lollar scored 16 points, dished out three assists, added three turnovers and one steal. He was 6-11 from the field, including 4-7 on long-range three-pointers.

Young finished with 10 points. He had four assists without a turnover with one blocked shot and one steal. He added a pair of rebounds and was 3-7 from the field, including two of three on treys.

Ian Young is one of three newcomers battling for playing time with the 2003-2004 Tigers.

"The guys are playing hard and are competitive," Ellis said of his two healthy point guards. "We have a lot of character on this team. Losing Lewis is a major blow with a very short time frame for getting ready, but we have the type of guys who are going to compete. We just have got to see how it all works its way out. We have got to utilize our veteran players to try to get us through this. Today, I thought they did a good job and on Friday we play somebody else and I think that will be good."

Ellis said he and his assistant coaches are going to grade video of the scrimmage to decide who starts in the exhibition opener vs. the EA Sports Southeast, All-Stars a 7 p.m. tip at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum as part of a doubleheader with the women who play Premier Players at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Young was the star guard last season at Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa. Ellis said he likes what he has seen from the physical player, who stands six-foot-three and weighs 200 pounds. He averaged 21.7 points per game last season and has shown that he can score inside or outside in the preseason. "He plays with a lot of heart," Ellis said. "Both of those guys are going to get a lot of minutes. Our goal is to try to get Lewis back and have him ready for conference play. That all depends on the surgery on Friday and how that turns out."

The loss of Monroe could mean some playing time for versatile newcomer Ronny LeMelle at the two guard spot. He put on a good show at the Wednesday scrimmage, leading all scorers with 24 points. He drilled 10-14 shots, including three of four treys. He added seven rebounds, three assists and committed just one turnover.

"I am coming along pretty well," said LeMelle, another juco transfer. "Those numbers in the scrimmage are pretty good. I didn't realize I had scored that many points. I was just trying to play within the system Coach Ellis is teaching us. There are more things involved than when I was in junior college and I am learning all of the rules for what I am supposed to do."

Ellis said he liked what he saw from LeMelle and added, "Right now I think all of them are really doing a good job."

Junior forward Marco Killingsworth scored 17 points on 7-12 shooting and added seven rebounds in a game that was 80 percent the length of a normal college game. Killingsworth has been strong all preseason.

Senior center Kyle Davis had a solid offensive game hitting seven of nine shots for 15 points. He added three rebounds as he returned to action after being out for nearly a week with an ankle sprain.

Junior forward Brandon Robinson concentrated on defense and rebounding. He was tough on the boards with a game-high 14 rebounds and he made 6-10 field goals for 13 points. He had three assists, four turnovers, two blocks and two steals. Robinson made several impressive passes in the scrimmage.

Junior Nathan Watson, who will likely start on Friday night at the two guard spot, scored nine points on four of seven shooting and had two assists, two steals and no turnovers.

Newcomer forward Quinnel Brown added eight points on 4-10 shooting and added seven rebounds with two assists and no turnovers.

Junior guard Troy Gaines was 2-8 from the field for six points with three assists and two turnovers. Both his made field goals were very long threes.

Senior forward Rodney Tucker hit just two of eight field goals and scored five points with two rebounds, one assist, one turnover and one block.

Walk-on guard Danny Wicke was 1-5 shooting and scored four points and added four assists and two turnovers while redshirting walk-on guard Bret Howell was 1-4 shooting for three points with one turnover. Walk-on Moses Edun scored one point and walk-on Jamaal Arnold did not score.

After Friday's game vs. the EA Sports Southeast All-Stars, who play Duke on Wednesday night, Auburn will have one more exhibition before opening the regular season at home on Nov. 17th vs. College of Charleston.

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