Playing a lineup that usually included four or five guards on the court at the same time, the undersized Tigers posted a 14-17 record and were 5-13 in the SEC, making them much more competitive than virtually anybody predicted in the preseason.
"I personally want to thank these players for a wonderful ride," Lebo said. "A lot of these guys were guys I did not recruit. A lot of these guys, especially the seniors, had chances to go and leave here when we had a transition. They decided to stay here. They believe in Auburn."
Speaking to an overflow crowd at Saugahatchee Country Club at the Auburn Tipoff Club's 16th annual awards banquet, Lebo had more praise for members of the 2004-2005 Auburn team.
Coach Jeff Lebo
"They believed in the future here and they laid the foundation of what is going to happen down the road," Lebo said. "I personally want to thank you for what you have done this year. You have made me proud, you have made this staff proud and this basketball program, and anybody associated with it, proud. The university is very proud with your effort.
"Success is finding what motivates us and working as hard as we can to achieve our maximum potential," Lebo added. "That is what I believe success is. If that is the definition of success, this probably been has been one of the most successful basketball teams I have been around."
Senior guard Nathan Watson won team Most Valuable Player honors and a standing ovation for his senior performance. The former walk-on from Fort Payne averaged 11.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting 46 percent from the field, 37 percent from three-point range and 70 percent from the free throw line.
Nathan Watson launches a three in Auburn's SEC Tournament victory over Vandy.
Watson was named to the All-San Juan Shootout team after averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds and had career-highs of 19 points three times this year.
"It is a good honor to be named MVP, especially to be named after Marquis Daniels and all of the great players who have won it before me," Watson told Inside the Auburn Tigers.
Watson said he was proud of being a successful SEC player after coming to Auburn as a walk-on. "It has been a long road, but it has seemed short, too, and I have enjoyed the ride," he said. "Hopefully, these guys who are coming back can fulfill their dreams and make Auburn a good basketball program."
Watson is scheduled to graduate this summer with a degree in criminology and a minor in adult education.
Watson also won the Paul Lambert/Tommy Joe Eagles Memorial Trophy for Leadership along with being named the team's top defensive player.
"I enjoyed my time here," said Watson, who added that he wished the team's record would have been more impressive in 2004-205. "But, I am proud of our team," he noted. "Everybody played with a lot of heart. I am definitely proud of them and they have a good future here at Auburn."
Freshman guard Toney Douglas, the team's leading scorer at 16.9 points per game, was named the MVP on offense. He averaged 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 steals. Douglas tied the freshman single-game scoring record with 38 points vs. Nicholls State and was MVP of the San Juan Shootout.
Other award winners for the Tigers included:
*Senior guard Ian Young took the Playermaker Award. He averaged 4.0 assists, 13.3 points and 4.1 rebounds.
Quinnel Brown scores vs. Tennessee in Jeff Lebo's first SEC coaching victory.
*Senior forward Quinnel Brown was named the top rebounder with his team-leading 6.0 per game. He averaged 12.8 points, 2.2 assists and 1.2 rebounds per game.
*Freshman guard Frank Tolbert was named the Sixth-Man Award winner. He averaged 6.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
*Sophomore guard Brett Howell won the team's academic achievement award.