Auburn Basketball Team Opens Practice

The 2008-2009 Auburn basketball Tigers opened preseason drills on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--A day later than originally scheduled, Coach Jeff Lebo's fifth Auburn basketball team opened practice on Saturday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum as it prepares for the Nov. 14th season opener vs. Missouri State.

The Tigers had planned to open drills on Friday night, but two players were missing due to deaths of relatives.

"This team will have more depth than we had last year," said guard Quantez Robertson. "As a senior, I am going to do my best to be a good leader."

Lebo hopes to build depth with five newcomers and the return from injury of 6-7 senior Korvotney Barber, who is expected to be one of the top forwards in the SEC this year.

Newcomers include a pair of guards, Tay Waller and Frankie Sullivan, plus forwards Francis Aihe and Johnnie Lett along with center Brendon Knox. Sullivan is the only freshmen in that group along with four juniors who played junior college basketball last season.

"We will move a little slower this year obviously with new guys and a lot of new faces," Lebo said. "We started on our simplistic offensive sets. Defensively, we will concentrate on mechanics and start on the infancy part of our man-to-man defense.

"I love the way how the team has meshed and how hard they have played," Lebo said. "They want to win. We have to run a six-minute mile to make the team and this is the first time everybody made it. They are doing a lot of stuff together. I like where we are.

"We will see what happens with our cohesiveness once the games start," Lebo added. "That is the true test for your team when playing time is determined and all kind of different things happen. It is all because of that.

"If we can stay together through that and if we can get some consistent play out of those big guys…I like where we are right now with our depth. I think we will be able to play a lot of different people this year."

Barber agreed with Lebo about the team chemistry. "There is no doubt this team is more together this year," he said. "Our goal as a team, especially the seniors, is do something special this year. I am looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish."

Korvotney Barber was hoping to receiver a medical hardship redshirt and play again this year as a junior, but his appeal to the NCAA was not successful.

Barber, a 6-7 forward, is full speed after missing most of last season with an injury. He was averaging 14.8 points and 7.4 rebounds when he was hurt and the Tigers never recovered from his loss as they finished 14-16 after going into the campaign with higher expectations.

Key losses include guard Frank Tolbert and forward Quan Prowell. Boubcar Sylla, a 7-1 center who played briefly last year before being injured, transferred to Wyoming in the offseason while 6-9 reserve forward Matt Heramb left for Kennesaw State. Josh Dollard, a 6-7 forward who was a projected starter this season, was dismissed from the squad over the summer for violation of team rules.

Lebo said that he will be looking for scoring help from his two new guards. "We think we have two very good outside shooters coming in with Frankie Sullivan and Tay Waller," Lebo said. Sullivan is 6-1 out of R.C. Hatch High in Uniontown, Ala., where he was a star going back to his eighth grade season on four state championship teams. Waller is 6-2 juco transfer from Okaloosa-Walton in Niceville, Fla., who averaged 19 points per game last season and is known as a good three-point shooter.

The Tigers are looking for help on the boards from 6-8 Lett, a teammate of Waller's in junior college, along with 6-9 Aihe from Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla., and 6-10 Knox from Spartanburg Methodist College in South Carolina.

The Tigers will play an exhibition game Nov. 7th at home vs. Morehouse.

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