SEC Hoops Preview: Auburn Tigers

Part eight in a series of previews of SEC basketball teams features Coach Jeff Lebo's Auburn Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--After spending his first three seasons rebuilding the Auburn basketball program, coach Jeff Lebo looks like he finally has a team capable of making a push for postseason play.

With all five starters back from a squad that finished 17-15 last year and was very competitive against a variety of highly-ranked teams, expectations are higher for Auburn basketball.

"Last year we got a little taste of success and the guys liked it, and they want more of it," Lebo says. "That has been good.

"Last year I felt we made the step and beat some very good teams in this league and some Top 25 teams so they had a chance to see what it is like. They had the chance to see the arena filled up a couple of times and the excitement that we can generate here with our people.

"They want to have that more consistently, and they have had the taste of it," Lebo adds. "Now, the next test will be can we give them more? Can our team be challenged more? Can our coaches be challenged more and can we have more consistency to it."

The offseason has been a busy one for Lebo's program. The biggest news was the university's decision to build a new $92.5 million on-campus, basketball only arena to replace Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, which was built in the 1960s. Construction on that project is expected to begin next summer. In addition, there will be a new basketball training facility built next to the arena.

Also during the summer, the Tigers got a very early start on the 2007-2008 season with a three-game exhibition tour to Cancun, Mexico, where the Tigers cruised to three easy victories.

With no seniors on last season's squad, seven players are back with starting experience, including a pair of seniors, 6-4 guard Frank Tolbert and forward Quan Prowell.

Tolbert, a physical player with three seasons of starting experience who is known as "Frank the Tank," averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds as a junior while Prowell, a 6-8, 215 junior, averaged 12 points and 5.3 rebounds after transferring to Auburn from Furman.

The junior group, Lebo's first recruiting class, is the heart of the team with guards Quantez Robertson (6-3, 193) and Rasheem Barrett in that group along with a pair of forwards, Josh Dollard and Korvotney Barber.

Barber is quick to the rim for the Tigers.

Robertson, who can play both guard spots and do it well, averaged 8.1 points and 3.9 rebounds as the quarterback of the offense. An ironman who would play 40 minutes every night if needed, Robertson averaged 4.9 assists per game and is known as a strong defensive player.

Dollard, who has a nice shooting touch, led the Tigers in scoring last season at 12.5 points per game and also added 7.0 rebounds per contest. At 6-7, 225 he can score inside or outside.

Barber, a 6-7, 220-pound quick leaper, averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds.

On tour in Mexico with his teammates, Barrett appeared to be over the sophomore shooting slump during which his field goal percentage fell from 46.4 to 37.8 percent. The 6-5, 220 guard averaged 11 points and 3.9 rebounds as a sophomore.

Depth should come from sophomore guard DeWayne Reed, a 6-1, 175-pound guard, who averaged 5.4 points and 3.0 assists. He is recovering from a foot injury suffered in Mexico, but has looked good in early team practices. Another guard, senior Archie Miaway, is acdemically ineligible until the end of the fall semester although the juco transfer is practicing with the team.

More depth is expected to come from a pair of sophomore forwards, 6-6 Lucas Hargrove and 6-9 Matt Heramb. The only newcomer will add size. Boubacar Sylla, a 7-1, 275-pound center from Paris, France, is significantly bigger than Heramb, last season's tallest Tiger.

Lebo is happy to be coaching an experienced team. "You cannot put a price tag on what that means, not only on the basketball court, but off the court as well."

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