Hoops Doubleheader Opens Exhibition Season

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn men's and women's basketball Tigers, teams with aspirations of making runs in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, will go on public display with exhibition games on Friday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

The men's team planned to open with two missing starters from last year's squad that made a strong run into the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. However, a fractured bone in his foot that required surgery has put returning starter Lewis Monroe on the sideline for Coach Cliff Ellis' Tigers.

In Friday's 7 p.m. exhibition game vs. the EA Sports Southeast All-Stars, senior Chris Lollar will be competing with newcomer Ian Young to take over the starting point guard role handled very well last season by Monroe. Lollar scored 16 points in Wednesday's 32-minute intrasquad scrimmage while adding three assists with three turnovers. Young, a junior college transfer, scored 10 points and added four assists without a turnover. He averaged 21 points per game as a sophomore for Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa.

Ellis says that Monroe, a six-foot-five junior, will be missed. "When you look at the Sweet 16 run you have to give credit where it's due and that is to the point guard," the coach says. "I am sick about it as he is, but you don't have a choice, you have got to move on. I think it is a major blow at this point, but we are going to find a way to work around it."

Monroe, who was looking strong in preseason practices, is expected to be back sometime during the conference season after having surgery to repair the bone damage in his foot. "Naturally, he is disappointed," Ellis says. "He has been playing so well."

Forward Marco Killingsworth grabs a loose ball in Wednesday's intrasquad scrimmage while guard Troy Gaines prepares for a two-point landing.

After having three intrasquad scrimmages, Ellis says it will "be good to play somebody else." He expects a halfcourt style of play from the EA Sports Southeast All-Stars. The Tigers will also play an exhibition game next Thursday vs. the Global Sports All-Stars before opening the regular season on Nov. 17th at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum vs. College of Charleston.

The Tigers lost starters Marquis Daniels and Derrick Bird, but return all of their other key players from a team that finished 22-12.

Auburn will likely start juniors Marco Killingsworth and Brandon Robinson at the forward spots and Kyle Davis at center even though he was slowed in practice this week as he completes his recovery from an ankle sprain. Junior Nathan Watson will probably start at the two guard spot although he faces a major challenge from Ronney LeMelle, a six-foot-five junior who scored 24 points in Auburn's Wednesday scrimmage. LeMelle also plays forward.

"I actually feel most comfortable at the two guard, but I can play any position, says LeMelle, who averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last season at western Oklahoma State College. LeMelle says that he feels like he is making progress. "I am still learning Coach's system, but I am starting to get the hang of it," he tells Inside the Auburn Tigers.

Another newcomer to watch is 6-6 forward Quinnel Brown, who scored eight points and added seven rebounds in the Wednesday scrimmage. He averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game for Wabash Valley Junior College in Illinois.

Coach Joe Ciampi's team, the defending Women's National Invitational Tournament champions, will take on Premier Players at 5 p.m. in the first half of the doubleheader on Friday. That will be the only exhibition game for his team before it starts the regular season Nov. 14th vs. Notre Dame at a strong tournament in Boulder, Colo., that includes the University of Colorado and Old Dominion.

Auburn returns all five starters from a team that posted a 23-11 record. That group includes senior forward Le'Coe Willingham, junior forward Louise Emagi, junior guard Natasha Brackett, junior point guard Nicole Louden and senior center Tia Miller.

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