Hot Streak: Freshman Producing for Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--As the Tigers prepare for Saturday's SEC men's basketball opener at Vanderbilt, they will be looking for another good performance from reserve freshman forward Rasheem Barrett.

In recent games, he has been more than just a spark off the bench. Offensively, the 6-5 forward has been on fire.

In Wednesday night's 80-57 victory over Southern Miss, the final non-conference game of the season, he played 26 minutes in a reserve role and led all scorers with 21 points.

That was seven points shy of his collegiate high he had in Auburn's previous outing vs. Jacksonville State. The game prior to that, he scored 19 vs. Winthrop.

Even though nobody on the team has been more productive in recent weeks, the freshman from Marist High in Atlanta says the fact that he isn't a starter doesn't bother him, "No sir, I could care less," Barrett says. "As long as we win as a team, I don't mind."

As Auburn has posted an 8-3 record, Barrett has contributed to the effort by averaging 12.1 points per contest while playing an average of 21 minutes per game.

He has shot the ball particularly well, hitting 51.1 percent of his field goals, including 45 percent from three-point range. Against Southern Miss, he took 10 field goals and made seven, including 2-3 on threes.

The freshman says he is particularly pleased with his three-point percentage. In high school, he scored most of his points closer to the basket.

"All of my life, it has mostly been pull-up jumpers," he says. "I am surprised I am shooting as well as I am because usually it has been stop and pop. I am real glad my three-point game is coming along."

Barrett says he works on the threes during practice and comes back to the gym at night to concentrate on his long-range shots.

Rasheem Barrett scores inside for the Tigers. He has also been effective beating his defenders one on one and driving to the basket for layups. Barrett says that the team's only senior, Ronny LeMelle, has been helping him with that aspect of his game. "He sat me down and worked with me and talked to me about it," Barrett says. "I asked him questions and he answered them."

Barrett notes that his more aggressive play in games in recent weeks is partly because of the lessons he learned from LeMelle.

In addition to scoring close to the basket and outside the three-point line, Barrett has the ability to pressure defenders with his dribble drive and then stop quickly to release a difficult to defend shot.

"With Rasheem, if you are even with him he can use his body and take you for a ride where he wants to go for a mid-range jumper," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says.

Barrett says that he and the other freshmen are being told that life in the SEC, where they will play the next 16 games, is going to be tougher, particularly on the road.

"They pound it, pound it in our head that is a different ball game," Barrett says. "They will have players just like you or even better."

AU is 8-0 at home, but 0-3 on the road as the Tigers travel to Vandy for a 1 p.m. CST start in a game that will be televised regionally on JP Sports.

"We are a young team," Barrett says. "On the road we have got to keep our poise, toughness. We have to keep our concentration and step our game up."

Sophomore forward Daniel Hayles, who scored a career-high 17 points on Wednesday night, says he is impressed with what he has seen from the freshman. "His body, he is a man-beast," Hayles says. "He's solid. That is definitely an advantage he has got on older players."

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