Aihe Expected to See Early Playing Time

A men's basketball report features comments from Francis Aihe and Coach Jeff Lebo.

Auburn, Ala.--Francis Aihe, a new member of Coach Jeff Lebo's basketball team, looks like he will have a chance to contribute at two positions this season.

The six-foot-nine junior college transfer from Santa Fe Community College in Florida has been on the Auburn campus working out since the summer with his new teammates.

Aihe is seeing action at the power forward (four) and center (five) positions. He has played in both junior college with most of his time at center last season. He also played both at Winter Park where he was part of a Florida 6A state title team his senior season.

"I like the four because I am a little more mobile at the four and can do more facing up and create mismatches at the other end," Aihe tells Inside the Auburn Tigers.

He says he feels like he is fitting in with his new team and is looking forward to the start of the season. The Tigers will play an exhibition on Friday vs. Morehouse at 6 p.m. and will open the regular season at home on Friday, Nov. 14th vs. Missouri State at 7 p.m.

"Everything is going great," the junior says when talking about his new team. "There is a lot of enthusiasm out here and it is pretty contagious. The team is looking pretty good."

One of three big men who joined the Tigers this season after playing juco ball, Lebo notes that Aihe has a chance to contribute early. "Francis is doing well," the coach says. "Obviously, he is not as strong as some of the other guys, but he tries to do things right. He has got some quickness and he has got some length.

"He can get stuff done, more than what you think, in a scrimmage situation," Lebo says. "He provides a lot of energy for us when he is fresh. He fatigues a little too early for us now.

"I don't see him playing long stretches because he really drops off when that fatigue hits so he has got to get in a little bit better shape the next few weeks," Lebo adds.

Commenting on the biggest adjustment he is having to make with the move up from juco ball to the SEC, Aihe says, "I would say the physical play. Everybody plays physically here so I have to step it up every practice, but I feel like I am getting better at that."

Francis Aihe is one of four juco transfers on the 2008-2009 Auburn team.

Lebo notes the Tigers have been concentrating on fundamentals so far this preseason and Aihe says he believes that is an important part of developing a team. "I think a key is doing the little things right and that will lead to big things," Aihe contends. "I also think it is important to have good team chemistry."

Aihe averaged 8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game as a sophomore on a team that played platoon basketball. Five guys played half of a game and five different guys played the other half. As a senior in high school, he averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per contest.

He also played AAU basketball on a team coached by former Auburn standout Stan Pietkiewicz, a tremendous shooter for the Tigers from 1974-78 who also played in the NBA. Aihe says his relationship with Pietkiewicz sparked his interest in Auburn.

Aihe is one of seven new scholarship players on the 2008-2009 Auburn team. "We are pretty much learning with all of the new players coming in and we are trying to get adjusted to the system," he says.

Commenting on what he is focusing on in preseason, Aihe says, "I am pretty much working on defense. From what I heard they have been last in defense and Coach wants to change that around so I have been really working on that."


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