Barber Ready to Set Up Shop Near the Basket

Auburn, Ala.--With an emphasis on playing fast and with intensity, Korvotney Barber says he is eager to get his second season of college basketball started.

"Everything is going good," the 6-7, 225-pound Auburn power forward says. "We are having good practices and good workouts in the weight room. We are just getting ready for the first game.

"We are going to be a lot better team," he adds. "Last year we learned a lot because the freshmen had to play early. We know what to look for this year."

The Southeastern Conference, which produced two Final Four teams last year with Florida winning the national title, is expected to be strong this year.

Barber says he went to work in the weight room in the offseason to meet the challenges he expects this season. "I am stronger this year and it is going to help me a lot because we have some of the country's best big men in the SEC. It is going to help me a lot to defend against those guys. It is going to fun."

The Tigers open their exhibition season on Friday at 7 p.m. vs. Faulkner and play the regular season opener a week later vs. Troy. The Tigers will play two exhibition games at home plus 20 regular season games at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Barber notes he welcomes that kind of schedule. "We hate losing in our own backyard," he says. "I think we should win a lot more games than we did last year."

Coach Jeff Lebo notes that he expects Barber will be logging a lot of minutes this season, especially early in the season with forwards Josh Dollard and Quan Prowell sidelined with suspensions. That is going to put extra pressure on Barber to rebound.

"Yes, that's true but it is okay," he says. "Whatever it takes to win is what we are going to do. We will do anything to win. When those guys get back, we will take it to another level."

Barber says that with a deeper, more athletic roster the Tigers are going to do what they can to play games at a faster pace. "We have got to run, set a lot of screens and hit the open shot," he says. "It is a fun way to play basketball. We have got to be in shape.

"I think we have an advantage over real big teams because they are not as quick as we are," he adds. "We are going to get them to play our game because we are going to run. Everybody position, we are running."

Barber says the Tigers are in shape physically to play up-tempo basketball thanks to their strength and conditioning coach, Bryan Karkoska. "B.K. did a great job of conditioning us over the summer. I appreciate B.K. for that."

Korvotney Barber is shown in action as a freshman.

The six-foot-seven forward added five pounds of muscle in the offseason and will play at 225 pounds as a sophomore. Lebo is counting on the sophomore class that also features Quantez Robertson, Rasheem Barrett and Dollard to be key players for the Tigers this year.

Auburn will also be counting on the newcomers to contribute, especially early in the season with Dollard and Prowell not eligible.

"Kelvin Lewis, I think, is the best defender of all of the new guys," Barber says of the 6-4 guard from Fort Worth, Tex., who suffered a stress fracture in his foot and is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.

"DeWayne Reed (6-1 guard from Houston, Tex) is probably the best pure point guard," Barber says.

The other two freshmen are 6-6 Lucas Hargrove from Columbia, S.C., and 6-9 Matt Heramb from Douglasville, Ga. "Lucas, he talks a lot, but he is pretty good," Barber says. "He is long and athletic. Matt, he has just got to catch up. When he makes a mistake he gets down on himself, but we always tell him not to worry about it because everybody makes mistakes. He is going to come around and he is going to be a pretty good player. All in all, the freshmen they are pretty good."

The other newcomer is junior Archie Miaway, a 6-4 guard from Norcross, Ga., via Tallahassee Community College. "He is a great shooter and he is pretty good on defense," Barber says.

When asked what newcomers will make an early impact, Barber says, "Archie probably will. Unlike last year, all of the freshmen don't have to play, but Matt and Luke are going to play a lot with Josh and Quan out for the early games."

Last year after making the move to Auburn from Manchester, Ga., High, Barber averaged 21.3 minutes of playing time with 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. His average of 1.6 blocks per contest was the ninth best in the SEC.

Improving the offensive numbers is a high priority for the sophomore. He made just 40 percent of his field goals and 57.4 percent from the line.

"I want to become a better all-around player," Barber tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Last year I was just a raw talent. I didn't know a lot, but over the summer I stayed in the gym shooting and dribbling. I just want to become a better player. Brett (Howell)) helped me shoot a lot. I stayed in the gym working on free throws and jump shots, every day, really. I put up a lot of shots. I had to stop for a while. I had to go Birmingham to get my wrist checked because I shot so much."

Barber is healthy now and Lebo says he expects Barber will be better defensively this year with more strength and a year's worth of experience. Barber says he believes the Tigers will be a better overall defensive squad.

"We have a lot of long players this year that are athletic," he says. "We should be good on defense. Rasheem is one of the best defensive players on the team. Tez is long and athletic on the ball so we should be real good on the defensive end."

Like all smart big men, Barber has nice things to say about his point guard (Robertson), who will be controlling the ball much of the game. "I love Tez because he is going to look to get the ball to you," Barber says. "If you don't run with him, it is not his fault if you don't get the ball because he is going to run the whole game. He gives it his all every day. That is why I love him so much."

Lebo says he is looking forward to seeing an improved Barber in games this season. "I think he is much stronger and he has much more ability to handle contact," Lebo says.

"I think he still has to get stronger," the coach says. "I think he understands what he is good at and what he isn't good at. I think he has improved what he is not good at. He is still not going to be a guy who is going to be an outside shooter. He needs to improve his free throw shooting. He struggled with that last season, but he has worked hard to improve that. He has worked hard on his shot.

"I think he has a much better understanding of what he is going to get day in and day out," Lebo adds. "I think for a sophomore that puts you much more at ease. I know my first year when I was playing it was hard because you don't know what every day was going to entail. Now you have a comfort level with practices, games and academically how it works. I think he will be much more at ease.

"Early in the season he is going to have to play about every minute for us so his conditioning will have to be better, which is something he struggled with early last year."

Barber says he has done the work and is ready to hit the court to show how he and his teammates have improved in the offseason.

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