Tigers Have Numbers to Compete

Auburn, Ala.--In 2004-2005 it was the height and depth. In 2005-2006 it was the youth and the depth.

For the first time since he's been at Auburn, Jeff Lebo has a full bench of scholarship athletes, enough height down low with four players in the rotation of 6-7 or taller and the experience necessary to compete against the top-caliber teams.

The season didn't start that way with the suspensions of Josh Dollard and Quan Prowell as well as a stress fracture to Kelvin Lewis' foot, but all three players are back and Lebo used 11 scholarship players and three others in Auburn's 86-59 victory over Tennessee State on Tuesday.

"When they're tired we're able to bring them out and sit them and not lose a lot when we substitute," Lebo says. "That will help us. We have a tired signal when you're fatigued that they come out, but that gives them the right to go back in.

"If they show me they're tired and they're hurting the team," Lebo adds, "to me it's being selfish. If you're that tired you've got to give me the tired signal and we'll bring you out. If you give me that before I see your breakdowns you get the right to go back in. If I get you because you're breaking down then you sit down until I put you back in. That's kind of been our rule. I've had to look away over the last couple of years when they've given it. This year we can honor it a little more."

In past years Lebo, who was an outstanding point guard at North Carolina during his playing days, and assistant John Cooper, a big-time scorer at Wichita State, have had to coach and scrimmage in practice because there weren't enough bodies to run a live game.

"We haven't had to lace them up yet," Lebo notes. "I hope we don't have to lace them up again. We're able to split up a bit and have five-on-five and have some kind of simulation of what's going to happen out there. We have some competition and they've got to bring it every day. I think our practices the day after the game, because we're not playing so many minutes, we'll be able to get a little bit more done than we have in the past."

With Prowell in the lineup, Lebo now has three athletic bodies and scoring threats inside with Korvotney Barber, Dollard and Prowell. Six-foot-nine Matt Heramb can also contribute minutes. Lebo and his staff will have to find a way to mix and match to find the best personnel out on the floor.

"I think we know how we want to play," Lebo explains. "We just have to figure out who is going to play and how many minutes and where.

"Quan Prowell will play inside and we may have a rotation with those three guys with Korvotney Barber, Quan Prowell and Josh Dollard inside. We also can go a little bigger and play Quan at the three and play all three together. Quan has played so much of the four and five in practice, he's got to get a little more comfortable playing the three because we use him against Vot and Josh so much.

"We'll have some flexibility and we can still go small if we need to," he adds. "Frank (Tolbert) can play any position. He can play one through five. We'll be able to take Lucas Hargrove off the four now and concentrate him more at the three. He had to learn two positions and it wasn't his fault. He's behind because he's had to learn two positions because of suspensions. I think he'll get better because he can just learn one position."

Dollard has shown the ability in recent games to face up the basket and knock down the mid-range jumper.

At the point guard Quantez Robertson won't be forced into playing nearly every minute of the game because of the emergence of freshman Dewayne Reed. The 6-1 guard from Houston, Tex., excels as an on the ball defender and is also chipping in 7.6 points and 4.4 assists per game offensively.

Juco transfer Archie Miaway, who is second on the team in made three-point baskets, can step in behind Rasheem Barrett and Tolbert at the two guard and be a spot-up shooter.

Another shooter who is an addition to this year's team is Lewis, who Lebo says he can use at either guard position.

"I think Kelvin is going to help us passing the ball," Lebo says. "I think Kelvin can shoot the ball and he's streaky from the outside. He can make shots and he can make shots with guys on him. He's just getting back into game shape and playing shape and getting confident with it.

"He's not back to where he was before he got hurt," Lebo adds. "When you miss as much practice time as he's missed in basketball, it's very difficult from a conditioning standpoint, from an execution standpoint and from a timing standpoint to come back and play."

The Tigers also have scoring balance in the lineup, which Lebo says makes them tougher to guard. All five starters average double figures in points, led by Barber at 14.8. Another positive for the program, maybe not now but later, is that there are no seniors on the 2006-2007 team.

Auburn (9-3) plays No. 13 Texas A&M (9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.

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