Bad News, Good News Day For Jeff Lebo

The Tigers are losing a player and gaining the opportunity to replace him and others more quickly.

Auburn, Ala.--New Auburn men's basketball coach Jeff Lebo will not be keeping all of the returning players from Coach Cliff Ellis' 2003-2004 team.

Freshman center Dwayne Curtis from Chicago plans to transfer to another college. He will have to sit out next season and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

"We always want what is best for our players, and Dwayne feels this is best for him," Lebo said on Thursday. "We wish him well."

Curtis, 6-8 , 280 pounds and nicknamed "Big Baby:" by his AU teammates, was recruited to Auburn by assistant coach Tracy Dildy, who is also from Chicago. Dildy was not retained when Cliff Ellis was fired and has been hired as an assistant coach at Ole Miss. Another AU assistant, Charlton Young, has been hired at UT-Chattanooga.

Dwayne Curtis

"I am doing what is the best for myself," Curtis said. "Auburn is a great place. I talked with my family members and they told me to make the best decision for myself. It is nothing against Auburn. I just feel it's right for me."

Curtis, who was academically ineligible for the first semester, averaged 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 19 games. He shot 58 percent from the field and started five times. He scored a career-high 11 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes at Arkansas in his first start and then had 10 points and a career-high nine boards in 24 minutes at No. 5 Mississippi State.

Lebo got some good news on Thursday that he and his assistant coaches were hoping for when the NCAA eliminated the 5/8 rule that would have greatly slowed their efforts to reshape the AU program. The rule allows a team to sign only five players in a signing class and a total of just eight over a two-year period. With that rule abolished, Lebo and his assistants

"Obviously, we are excited about the rule being changed," Lebo said. "It has maybe a bigger effect on us at Auburn than it would on a lot of places because of our high number of seniors. It will give us the opportunity over the next two years to get caught up to use all of our available scholarships."

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