Hoops Signee Eager to Get to Auburn

Auburn basketball signee Francis Aihe discusses his decision to join Jeff Lebo's program.

Gainesville, Fla.--Francis Aihe notes that he has been interested in Auburn since he started playing basketball back home in Winter Park, Fla.

The 6-9 sophomore from Santa Fe Community College, who is Auburn's latest verbal commitment for the 2008 signee class for Coach Jeff Lebo's Tigers, says he is excited about his decision to play for AU.

"Auburn is always a place I have considered going back to when I started playing basketball as a sophomore in high school," Aihe tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "My AAU coach, Stan Pietkiewicz, was a former Auburn Tiger from 1974-78. When he talked about his college experience he talked about Auburn.

"I am finishing up junior college now and I have always had Auburn under consideration so as soon as they offered it was a pretty easy decision for me."

Aihe, who averaged 8.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists with 100 blocks this past season, points out that he is eager to continue to improve. "I am working on pretty much everything," he says.

"I am working to become a well-rounded player--rebounding and defense are my main strengths. I love to defend. I actually defend with a passion. That is where games are won on the defensive end.

"I am working on my ball-handling and my shooting," he says. "I am working on my basketball IQ. I watch a lot of games and study other teams and see how people get open and receive the ball. I watch good defensive players like Kevin Garnett and Ben Wallace and see what they do out there. I would say my biggest strength is on the defensive end, but I do have the ability to score."

Because of his size, he has spent much of his time at center. "I am a natural four (power forward) although in high school I played center," he says. "In junior college I played (five), but the position I am most comfortable with is four, but I am comfortable defending at either position."

Going to junior college just a few miles from the University of Florida campus, Aihe knows some of the Florida players and he works out with Gator standout Marreese Speights, a player who is considering going pro this year. "He is a really good friend," Aihe says.

It won't be long before he is working out with his new teammates at AU. "I should be in Auburn the first week in July after I finish my classes and gradate from Santa Fe Community College," he says.

Asked what the coaching staff told him on his visit to the AU campus this week, he says, "They expect me to come into Auburn and work hard. They believe, like I believe, that my best days are ahead of me.

"This is my fifth year playing basketball and things are really beginning to come to together," Aihe adds. "I think my IQ playing the game is going up. They expect me to come in and work hard and improve on my strengths and my weaknesses and give it everything I have got, which I plan on doing."

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