Tigers Expect To Play Up Tempo This Season

Coach Jeff Lebo discusses Auburn's upcoming season and playing with the lack of an inside presence for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.–-A new era of Auburn men's basketball officially gets under way just after midnight on Friday when Coach Jeff Lebo has his first practice at "Midnight Mayhem" inside Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Joining forces with new women's coach Nell Fortner for the event, Lebo will put his team through the paces with a short workout and events such as a dunking contest and three-point shooting contest. Lebo said he's anxious to get the event started so the season can get closer to being and reality.

"We're excited about "Midnight Mayhem," Lebo said. "The doors open at 10 p.m. and there's going to be a lot of exciting things happening there. I think they're going to name the student group (formerly The Cliff Dwellers) and have shooting contests and interaction with both teams. I think it will be a fun night to get absolutely nothing done as far as coaching is concerned, but to have a lot of fun."

Ian Young will be a key player for the Tigers this fall.

With nine lettermen gone off last season's team that won only five games in the league, Lebo has his work cut out for him this season. That is especially true because of the lack of size on Auburn's roster. Only one player, true freshman forward Ryan Daniel (6-11, 215) is over 6-6 on this year's team, a stat that has Lebo ready to play a very different style of basketball this season.

"We're going to have a unique team as most of you know," Lebo said. "We have nine guards and one big guy who plays like a small forward. It's going to be a unique type of team. We're going to have to play awfully different. We'll have to make shots and use our speed. We'll have the 6-5 Quinnel Brown at the five spot and he's a guard. We'll have to play that way. That's who we are and that's our identity."

One thing that has been apparent to Lebo and the coaching staff is the willingness to work from this year's players. A quick way to find that out was a timed mile run the team had to do, something Lebo said goes back to his playing days at North Carolina.

"It's an interesting group of guys," Lebo said. "I really like them as a group and their work habits. I love their attitudes. I think we've seen some good things, some teamwork coming together here with our team. I'm proud to say you have to run a six-minute mile to make the team here and everybody has made the team."

Leadership is something that was missing off last year's team despite the experience that was coming back off of the Sweet 16 team from 2003. Although he's only been a part of the Auburn program for one full season, senior Ian Young has made it very apparent that he doesn't plan on having the same type of team two years in a row.

"I have been really pleased with our seniors and the leadership from our seniors," Lebo said. "We have five seniors. I'm really happy with Ian Young and his leadership and work habits. He's really been a pleasant surprise. He's lost a lot of weight. When I first took the job he was about 235 and now he's back down to about 205."

Several young players will be counted on to play extensive minutes this season for the Tigers. One of those is true freshman Toney Douglas, a 6-1, 190 guard from Jonesboro, Ga. A scorer in high school, Douglas will be counted on to play both the point guard and two guard position this season along with Young and sophomore transfer Brett Howell.

Another young guard whyo will see plenty of action is true freshman Frank Tolbert. At 6-3, 210, Tolbert is built like a linebacker and plays that physically on the court. With the lack of size on the team this season Tolbert will be counted on to play on the interior and Lebo said the Red Level native has worked hard to get ready.

"Frank Tolbert is a young man that has made huge strides from when we got here until right now," Lebo said. "He's lost about 25 pounds since the first day of school and he's starting to get back into the shape he was during high school."

Facing a schedule that features road games at Temple, Virginia and the College of Charleston and home games against Colorado State and UNLV all before conference play begins, the Tigers have a tough road ahead of them this season. Lebo said the schedule is a little more difficult than what he would like with such a young team, but the coaching staff will do everything they can to get the team ready for what they are going to face.

"They all know their limitations to a point," Lebo said. "If they're any good they always think they're better than what you really are. I think our kids are determined. They feel good and are confident. We've talked about the way we're going to have to play with shooting the basketball and shooting the three. We're going to have to put up a lot of attempts from the three, I think they understand that and are excited about that.

"A lot of times we're not going to have the power, or be favored or have the depth, but that doesn't necessarily mean we can't win the basketball game. We've got to get that through to our kids. I think they understand where we are, what we're doing and what we're trying to build here an'd how we're going to have to play to a point. Do they understand the full magnitude of it?' Probably not, but they'll understand it fairly quickly."

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