Sophomores to Lead Fortner's Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--As the Auburn women's basketball team takes the court on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for an exhibition game vs. Tuskegee University at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, Coach Nell Fortner is going to rely on youth to carry the Tigers.

"We have six sophomores this year so our sophomore class is the core of our team," Fortner says. "It is the class as a staff we came in and signed first. Whitney Boddie, DeWanna Bonner and Sherell Hobbs are all out of Alabama. They are very accomplished high school players, obviously."

"Keke Carrier at six-foot-seven brings us a different dimension inside," the coach says. "You don't see 6-7 that often. She is a player you have to contend with when she is on the floor.

"Whitney Boddie (5-9 guard) is a very good scorer. We didn't ask her to score as much last year, but this year we are asking her to score from the point position. That is something that is a little different role for her, but one that we hope that she wants to do.

Whitney Boddie is a returning starter for the Tigers.

"Sherrell Hobbs (5-11 guard) out of J.O. Johnson is playing real well now.," Fortner says. "She has come back with a renewed energy to make a difference. The depth on this team is pushing players in practice to another level that we have not had in the last two years and that is making a big difference. They are having to fight each other every day in practice for their playing time."

Fortner's team will play on Tuesday as part of a doubleheader with the men's team playing an exhibition game vs. AUM at 8 p.m. There is no admission charge to see either contest.

Bonner, a 6-4 forward, is the leading returner scorer with her average of 13.5 points. She also averaged 6.5 rebounds per game as a freshman.

Carrier averaged 9.1 points and 5.0 rebounds while Boddie averaged 7.5 points 4.2 rebounds and dished out 119 assists to go with 61 turnovers and 44 steals.

Auburn's coach is hoping that her third Auburn team will have more depth than the previous two. "Chantelle Blakely is a sophomore backup point guard who is playing very well," she notes.

"Trevesha Jackson (6-0 sophomore forward), out of Auburn High, played last year at Gulf Coast Community College. She was conference player of the year and she has come in and added tremendous depth to our inside game. The depth and quality of depth is different than my first two years at Auburn and that has been a lot of fun to coach." Jackson averaged 16.4 points per game last season.

Freshman Reneisha Hobbs, a 5-10 guard, was Alabama's Gatorade Player of the Year last season after averaging 21 points and eight rebounds for J.O. Johnson in Huntsville. The sister of Sherrell has impressed the coaches in practice with her athleticism at guard.

Another newcomer guard, juco transfer Tamela McCorvey, is also expected to make a big impact on the Auburn team. She led the nation in three-point shooting as she made 61-109 last year at Okaloosa-Walton in Pensacola, Fla.

Auburn lost two starters, center Marita Payne (7.9 points, 6.5 rebounds) and guard Nitasha Brown (11 points, 110 assists).

Marita Payne set an Auburn record for career blocked shots with 377.

Fortner says she likes the talent level on her roster this year. However, with youth comes inconsistency, she notes.

"I think we have looked good on some days and not so good on others," the coach says. "I think that is a typical thing with any team. You just have to weather that storm and move on. We are still relatively young so you are dealing with sophomores and freshman as the bulk of your team. Sometimes they can lose focus. You just have to keep on working on that mental aspect of the game. You have to stayed mentally tough for the 2 1/2 hour practice. You have to do it in a game, you have to do it in a practice."

Auburn was hoping to get some inside help from freshman 6-2 Milaika Pickard from Carver High in Columbus, Ga., but she is not ready for action yet recovering from a knee injury suffered in high school.

Another freshman forward was injured in the preseason, but is back. "Jordan Greenleaf is a 6-1 kid out of Atlanta who tweaked her knee," Fortner notes. "She is going to give us some quality depth in the post. We have a lot of good options. It goes back to depth. When you have got that kind of depth you have got kids competing hard, which makes your team stronger.

Greenleaf was Georgia's Gatorade Player of the Year. She averaged 21.1 points and 14.7 rebounds for Morrow High.

Junior Alexis Ogubie, a 6-2 forward, has improved this season and is expected to see more playing time. AU will count on senior guard Joanna Clayden from England to be a zone buster off the bench. Juanitta Wallace is a 6-4 sophomore who adds inside depth.

"I really like our talent, but it is young," Fortner says. "I would rather be young and talented than old and not talented. I really like the players we have. They are good kids. They work hard. They get along good. They are hungry. That is fun to coach."

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