Tigers Looking for Help From Big Freshman

A preview on Auburn's basketball exhibition game is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--When Coach Jeff Lebo's Tigers take the floor on Thursday night for an exhibition game vs. Bluefield College, the game will mark the debut for one of Auburn's more interesting basketball recruits of recent seasons--seven-foot-one, 285-pound Boubacar Sylla.

With senior forward Quan Prowell serving a six-game suspension and Lebo announcing on Monday that junior forward Josh Dollard won't play at all this season the Tigers will turn to Sylla for immediate help on the boards.

So far in preseason practices, Lebo says the newcomer from Paris, France is off to a good start for a project who has limited basketball experience.

"He has handled it very well," Lebo says. "He hasn't missed practice. He has picked up things a lot faster than I would have anticipated.

"He tries to do what I ask him," the Auburn coach adds. "I worried about that because of the language barrier, but he has been outstanding so far understanding what we are trying to do, why we are trying to do it and being able to execute what we have in now."

Junior guard Quantez Robertson, a two-year starter for the Tigers, agrees with Lebo that Sylla is making progress in practice.

"He is a legitimate big man for us," Robertson says. "He is wide, he is long, he rebounds and he blocks shots. He is a heads-up passer for a big man, too. He can step outside and shoot the 12 to 15-footer so that can help, too."

Quantez Robertson can play both guard spots for the Tigers.

Both Robertson and Lebo note that Sylla is a work in progress as the Tigers prepare for a 7 p.m. exhibition game on Thursday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum vs. Bluefield College, a Division II team from Virginia.

"He is picking up the post moves and the plays," Robertson says. "If he doesn't know something, he asks questions."

Robertson, who averaged 8.2 points and 5.1 assists last season, says he believes Sylla will make it more difficult for opposing teams to score near the basket. "In practice our big guys have a hard time shooting over him. He is very long. Boubacar can almost touch the rim just standing straight up. Another thing about him is that he runs the floor so that will help us, too."

The Tigers will start a smaller than anticipated lineup without Prowell (12.0 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Dollard (12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds). Korvotney Barber, a 6-7 junior forward who averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds, will join 6-3 Robertson, 6-5 junior guard Rasheem Barrett, 6-4 senior guard Frank Tolbert and 6-1 sophomore guard DeWayne Reed as the starters vs. a Bluefield College team that posted a 21-12 mark last year and returns six of its top seven scorers.

Barrett averaged 11 points and 3.9 rebounds last season. Tolbert averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds while Reed averaged 5.4 points and 3.0 assists.

Off the bench the Tigers have more height with 6-9 sophomore Matt Heramb and 6-6 sophomore Lucas Hargrove expected to see playing time.

The lack of height shouldn't be an issue in the exhibition game against an opponent that also will start four guards with the tallest starter being 6-5 senior Dontae Gholson, who averaged 11.0 points and 6.3 rebounds last season. The top returning scorer, 6-3 junior guard Chris Dixon, averaged 17.9 points and 5.4 assists last season.

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