"He is not a vocal guy, but he leads by example," Lebo says. "He is our only senior and he's been through it. These young kids don't know. They are probably going to look to him when times get tough."
LeMelle is well aware that Lebo will be counting on him to be more aggressive as a basketball player as well as in the leadership role for the Tigers.
"Coach expects more out of me this year," he says. "He tells me he doesn't want me to sit back and let everything pass by me. I need to be more aggressive and more assertive. I'm too good to be playing silent and nobody notices me on the floor."
LeMelle played his junior season at Auburn in 2003-2004 after transferring from Western Oklahoma State College. He averaged six points per game, including a career high of 18 against Montana, while adjusting to the half court style of previous Auburn coach Cliff Ellis.
The following summer LeMelle broke a bone in his right foot, then suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee just before last season started. He was able to come back on Nov. 27 and play the next four games, averaging six points, but he re-injured his knee. The 6-5 LeMelle received a medical redshirt, leaving him as the only senior on the 2005-2006 squad.
"I think it is a blessing in disguise," he says. "Last year I didn't get to go through most of the preseason and then I got hurt again. I don't think I could have been as productive as I could be this year, and then to be there and show some leadership for the young guys. It all ended up working out."
Lebo says LeMelle, a swing player with a soft jump shot, is starting to return to his old form so far during preseason practices.
"He's been great," the coach says. "He has been healthy this year and he has been strong. He has made it through every practice and he is just starting to get his legs back under him, which is nice."
Ronny LeMelle joined the Tigers for the 2004-2004 season.
LeMelle says that practice has been different this season not only for him, but as an entire team because of a better balance of athletes on the hardwood for the Tigers.
"We have two or three people at every position and everybody is going 100 percent at practice," he says. "It makes everybody better because nobody wants to sit on the bench. Everybody has to contribute one way or the other.
"People are getting busted lips, busted noses and they just go off to the side and everyone else keeps going," LeMelle adds. "There is a lot of competing. Last year we would have to wait or somebody would be play out of their position."
Even though the expectations placed on the Tigers this year are low following a 14-17 season, LeMelle says he believes Lebo has the Tigers heading in the right direction and they should have a chance to field a good squad a couple of years down the road.
"We have got a more talented team this year so I think we'll have a better chance to win more games," he says. "We don't have the experience. The experience part makes a difference. If everybody can catch on playing at this level we should be fine."
Although the Tigers are shorter on experience, Lebo will have a longer bench to use. "You can tell by the recruiting class he brought in," LeMelle says. "He brought in a whole lot of talent at every position and all of them are long and athletic. Everybody can play, so you can tell he knows what he's doing and everything is going in a positive direction."
Tiger Ticket Notes Despite having virtually no low post presence a season ago with guards Quinnel Brown and Nathan Watson playing at the "center" and "power forward" positions, LeMelle says he has been impressed with freshmen forwards Korvotney Barber, Joey Cameron, Josh Dollard and sophomore Daniel Hayles through the first two weeks of preseason drills. "Korvotney is strong and athletic. He's talented. Coach has been working with him to give him skills with his raw talents. He's just raw. He can put it on the floor. I wouldn't say he would get out there on the floor and go one on one with somebody, but he can handle the ball enough."
Commenting on Cameron and Dollard, LeMelle says, "Joey is big and strong. He doesn't back down from anybody and he's aggressive. He's tougher than a freshman. He gets beat up a lot in practice and he doesn't go off to the side or anything. He tries to play through it. Then he'll go try to see the trainer afterward. Dollard is long and skilled. He's so long and he can handle the ball. I think he's more of a three skill-wise. He can play inside, too, so it's hard. Nobody can block his shots. He's going to bring a lot with the skill he has."
Commenting on Daniels Hayles, LeMelle says, "Daniel is a warrior. He's gotten better in the offseason and he's worked on his game so much that he's shooting much better, he has gotten stronger and bigger, and he is a freak of nature when it comes to running and endurance. He doesn't get tired. He never gets tired and he doesn't back down from anybody. His competitiveness makes him that much better. I know there are times when I'll come to the gym at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. and he'll be in there shooting away. I'm like, ‘Man every time I come up here, you're here.' He keeps saying he doesn't want to be on the bench. He'll be on the perimeter playing more three than anything."