Freshman Trying To Get The Point

This freshman came to Auburn expecting to play shooting guard, but all that could change if Coach <b>Cliff Ellis</b> is pleased with this newcomer's ability to run the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Junior Marquis Daniels might actually get to play his natural position of small forward this season for Auburn. And he can personally thank freshman Dwayne Mitchell for that opportunity.

Last season Daniels played out of position at power forward when senior Mack McGadney was lost for the season with a knee injury. Entering this season, it appeared that the versatile six-foot-six, 200-pounder was the likely choice of Coach Cliff Ellis to replace Jamison Brewer, who left the point guard position in limbo by declaring for the NBA Draft in June.

Now, with the season-opener just around the corner on Nov. 16, Brewer is on the roster of the NBA's Indiana Pacers, Daniels is recovering nicely from an off-season stress fracture by playing small forward again, as well as the point, while Mitchell is emerging as the team's point guard after being a standout shooting guard for John F. Kennedy High School in New Orleans, La.

Dwayne Mitchell at the Midnight Mayhem slam dunk contest.

"It's been a big adjustment," says Mitchell, who got a head start on the position switch by working out with former AU point guard Reggie Sharp and current teammates Charlton Barker and Lincoln Glass this summer. "They told me what I needed to do to play the position. They thought I would be really good at it if I learn how to play it well because I have the size and I am very quick."

Mitchell started at the point in the Tigers' first exhibition game of the season, a 69-58 victory over Global Sports. He says he was proud of his performance. "I thought I came out and played really well," Mitchell says. "The coaches thought I played pretty well. I only had two turnovers. "That was my main focus, not turning the ball over and trying to run our team like a point guard should."

The six-foot-four, 190-pounder has reason to be proud. Mitchell swung the momentum late for the Tigers with a steal and a monstrous dunk that he converted into a three-point play. Then, on the next play after a steal he found Adam Harrington, who quickly nailed a three which sparked the 11-point victory.

Harrington says the Tigers can help build confidence in their young point guard by helping him improve game by game. "We can make it easier on him by scoring in certain situations and taking pressure off of him," Harrington says. "The important thing now as competition gets better is to improve every game and help him adjust. You're going to have tough games, everybody will. That's inevitable. Being able to get through that and coming to practice and keeping his confidence up."

Mitchell admits there is pressure on him to lead this team as one of the youngest players on the court, but he says it's a challenge he is up for this year. "Coach is going to expect a lot out of me because I have to run the team and run it how he wants me to run it," he adds. "I have to take control on the court."

Taking control is nothing new to Mitchell. He averaged 28 points, six assists and five rebounds a game as a senior leading his high school to a 34-3 record and earning Louisian Class 5A All-State honors.

"Having a lot of leadership has a lot to do with playing point guard," Mitchell says. "The point guard is suppose to take control. He's the quarterback on the court. It's not new to me. In high school I had to take over the game and take charge, so that part is not new to me. Adjusting to playing the position is. It is a big step."

Mitchell and the Tigers have one more exhibition game on Friday at 7 p.m. left before the regular season starts vs. Highpoint. Harrington says his teammates believe in their new point guard. "We just have to stick together and see how it pans out."

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