Opening Night On Friday For Fortner's Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--Nell Fortner opens her second season as head coach of the Auburn women's basketball team on Friday at 7 p.m. as Texas-Pan American visits Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Fortner says she will be relying heavily on her talented freshmen class even though two of the key players in that group are sidelined. Guard Chantelle Blakely from Nashville, Tenn., had surgery on her legs earlier this year and it is not certain when she will be back.

Another guard, Whitney Boddie, has been doing rehab on a leg problem and is not expected to play on Friday night. The point guard from Florence, who was Miss Basketball for Alabama as a high school senior, was projected to start.

Two other freshmen are in the starting lineup--6-4 guard DeWanna Bonner, a McDonald's All-American last year at Fairfield High, and 5-11 guard Sherell Hobbs, an All-State player as a senior at Johnson High in Huntsville.

Marita Payne has improved her numbers each season as an Auburn center.

Auburn's top returning player, 6-5 center Marita Payne, will start at center. She is Auburn's all-time leader in shots blocked. Payne has 270 career blocks and led the nation last season with 141 while averaging 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds.

The Tigers are expected to use a three-guard lineup with 5-9 senior Nitasha Brown at the point. Alexis Ogubie, a 6-2 sophomore, will handle the other starting spot at forward.

Fortner says she is excited about seeing the Tigers in action, especially the newcomers that include 6-7 center Keke Carrier, 6-0 guard Joanna Clayden and 6-4 forward Juanitta Wallace.

The Tigers are also expected to play 6-1 sophomore forward Aileen Rossouw.

"We have nine healthy players and I think all nine will see minutes on Friday night," Fortner says.

The game vs. the Broncos will be the first ever women's basketball game matching the two teams. Auburn was 16-13 last season. Texas-Pan American, a school of 18,000 students located in Edinburg, Tex., was 14-14 last year. Auburn defeated Tuskegee University 71-46 in an exhibition game last Sunday in which Bonner led the Tigers with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

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