Senior Wants To Lead Basketball Comeback

Auburn, Ala.--Senior <b>Marquis Daniels</b> and the 2002-2003 Auburn men's basketball team will take the arena floor on Saturday morning for the first practice of the season with hopes of improving on a disappointing 2001-2002 campaign.

If Auburn is to improve significantly, the versatile six-foot-seven, 205-pound senior will likely be leading the way. Daniels says he is healthy, happy and is predicting a much better season for the Tigers, who slumped to a 12-16 record during his junior season.

"I have high expectations for myself to come out and play hard and be a team leader," says Daniels, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game as a junior. "I want to get everybody going. I want to keep everybody upbeat. I am looking forward to us having a great year."

Marquis Daniels is expected to be one of the better players in the SEC this season. He led the Tigers in scoring as a junior.

If the Tigers have a winning year, it will take contributions from a wide variety of players, including a group of sophomores who showed flashes of brilliance last season but were too mistake-prone to give the Tigers the type of consistent performances needed to be a factor in the Southeastern Conference race. The Tigers finished just 4-12 in the league and the preseason forecasts are likely to put them among the also-rans of the conference again this season.

Returning starting forwards Marco Killingsworth and Brandon Robinson, a pair of sophomores, will be counted on as both scorers and rebounders. Robinson, a SEC All-Freshman pick last year, averaged 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. Killingsworth, who checks in at 6-7, 235 pounds, averaged 7.8 points and 4.2 rebounds.

"The freshmen we had last year have really improved their game over the summer," Daniels says. "We also have some good new players coming in. I think we should have a balanced attack this season. I am just looking to be a leader."

Daniels has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches in previous seasons. He has been willing to help out wherever needed whether it was out of position at power forward or guarding guys who outweighed him by 40 pounds or outside at point guard against short, quick pesky guys. This year, he will likely spend most, if not all, of his time at his natural positions of big guard and small forward.

"I am willing to play any position coach wants me to play," Daniels tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "The most important thing is finding a way to contribute to getting more wins."

Kyle Davis is a defensive presence at center.

Other returning starters include 6-10 junior center Kyle Davis (6-10, 235 pounds, 5.6 points, 5.1 rebounds) and 6-4, 195 senior guard Derrick Bird (10.6 points, 3.2 rebounds) who is also a defensive standout. Davis is on pace to become the all-time leader in Auburn history for blocked shots and his defensive presence in the middle will be a key to success for AU. His absence was felt when Davis was not on the court during an injury-plagued sophomore season.

Other returnees who saw playing time last year include 6-5, 190 sophomore point guard Lewis Monroe (3.7 points, 2.2 rebounds), 6-4, 200 sophomore guard Dwayne Mitchell (3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds), 6-3 sophomore guard Nathan Watson (2.0 points, 1.0 rebounds) and 6-6 senior forward Donny Calton (1.0, 0.5). Mitchell started 10 games last year and Monroe was in the starting lineup nine times.

Lewis Monroe started the 2001-2002 season as a redshirt, but ended up playing in 17 games.

The Tigers only had one significant loss from last year's team. Adam Harrington, a 6-5 guard who averaged 10.1 points per game, is skipping his senior season to try pro basketball. Mack McGadney, a senior last year, was only a shadow of his former self as he struggled to contribute with a knee problem and he saw time in just 15 games to average 4.4 points and 1.9 rebounds before calling it a season early when the knee problems would not go away.

Five newcomers will be looking to earn playing time starting with Saturday's practice. The group includes 6-8, center/forward Rodney Tucker, one of three junior college transfers. The 250-pounder from Stone Mountain, Ga., averaged 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds as a sophomore at Tallahassee, Fla., Community College.

The other two junior college transfers are point guards. Chris Lollar is a six-footer from Birmingham and Troy Gaines is 5-11 from Tucson, Ariz. Lollar averaged 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds as a sophomore at Johnson County Community College in Kansas. He set the school record for assists in a career (498), game (19) and season (309) after playing for John Carroll High School in Birmingham. Lollar was named the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Player of the Year as he led the school to its first national championship his freshman season. Gaines average eight points at Scottsdale Community College last season. He enters AU as a sophomore.

The other newcomer, 6-4 freshman guard Steve Leven, is from Sydney, Australia via Laurinburg, N.C., Institute in North Carolina where he averaged 24.4 points, four rebounds and four assists as a high school senior.

The Tigers will go on public display on Oct. 31st with an exhibition game vs. the Global Sports All-Stars. The regular season opens Nov. 22nd against the visiting Wofford Terriers and SEC play starts Jan. 8th when Vanderbilt visits Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Season tickets for 17 home games are now on sale for $180 per seat or $205 for a combo package that includes women's home basketball games.

A new Tiger Zone section in the north end of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum features $100 season tickets. Tickets can be purchased at or 1-800-AUB-1957.

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