Women's Team To Face Premier Players

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn women's basketball team begins its two-game exhibition season with a game vs. Premier Players on Saturday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum with tipoff set for 2 p.m.

The Tigers will open the 2001-2002 season with four new starters and a nucleus of young, but talented players. Senior Carol Smith is the only returning starter from last season's team when she started at shooting guard for Coach Joe Ciampi. The five-foot-two Smith will make the switch to point guard this season. She averaged 12.4 points and 2.6 assists.

Smith will be flanked in the starting backcourt by sophomore Nancy Derrick and junior Keisha Johnson. Derrick is a five-foot-nine shooting guard who played sparingly during her freshman campaign, averaging just 2.5 points per game. Johnson has the longest tenure of any player in the program and will get her first collegiate start after being a top reserve for the Tigers the last two seasons. Johnson will play the wing for Ciampi. She averaged 4.8 points and 3.9 rebounds.

In the frontcourt, senior Brandi Hillman will start at the four position while sophomore Tia Miller will make her much-anticipated debut at center for the Tigers. Hillman, much like Johnson, has been one of the Tigers' top reserves during her career and will get a chance to solidify herself in the starting lineup during the exhibition games. She averaged 5.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game last season.

Miller, who stands six-foot-two, was academically ineligible last season, but has worked her way into the starting lineup after having two solid preseason scrimmages for the Tigers.

Ciampi has plenty of talent on his bench to hopefully form the eight to 10 player rotation he says he wants to use during the regular season. Sophomore Le'Coe Willingham is among the second unit players who will see action Saturday. Willingham sat out last season due to personal reasons after earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors in 1999.

A talented core of newcomers led by freshman point guard Nicole Louden should also see plenty of action in the exhibition game. Louden comes to Auburn from Paterson, N.J., High where she is that state's all-time leading scorer for both girls and boys.

The Premier Players' roster is highlighted by a pair of former Georgia Bulldogs. The Miller twins, Coco and Kelly, are among the athletes playing with Premier Players during the exhibition slate.

The Tigers open their regular season vs. Florida A&M on Nov. 16 as part of a double-header with the men's team. The women tip off with the Rattlers at 5 p.m. and the men will face Highpoint University at 7:30 p.m.

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