Fortner Sees Progress By 20th-Ranked Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--As the Auburn women's basketball team prepares for its exhibition game on Sunday vs. Anderson University, Coach Nell Fortner says she is pleased with how the 20th-ranked Tigers are progressing in preseason.

"It's going good," the coach tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "We had some really nice moments in our closed door scrimmage with Samford on Sunday. We still have a long way to go, but I feel like we are at a good place now.

"The scrimmage gave us an opportunity to have some really good teaching opportunities on film," Fortner points out. "We will take advantage of that and get better before we play Anderson."

The Tigers are led by preseason SEC Player of the Year DeWanna Bonner, a 6-5 guard/forward who is a dynamic scorer and rebounder who averaged 18.4 points and 10 rebounds per contest as a junior.

Bonner was a first team All-SEC selection last season.

On Wednesday, Bonner was named as one of 30 preseason candidates for the Women's Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year trophy, Wooden Award.

Other Tigers with starting experience include senior guards Sherell Hobbs and Whitney Boddie, junior forward Jordan Greenleaf, junior center Keke Carrier and sophomore guard Alli Smalley.

Hobbs and Boddie were named second team Preseason All-SEC selections on Wednesday by the league's coaches, who picked the Tigers to finish third behind Vandy and defending NCAA champion Tennessee.

"We are healthy now and hopefully we will maintain that because it is such a key for any team having a good season," says Fortner, who will be looking for help from talented 5-10 redshirt sophomore guard Ree-Ree Hobbs, a player who has been sidelined the past two seasons with injury problems.

"Our conditioning over the summer was outstanding and I saw a huge difference the first day of practice compared to last year," says Fortner, whose Tigers played well in three games on an exhibition tour to Europe in August.

"Our conditioning has been something that has allowed us to move quickly through practice, which is a real bonus," the coach adds. "I think that is one of the things you get when you have a veteran team. They understand the importance of conditioning."

Six-foot-seven center Keke Carrier, who was out of action last season, is the exception to the rule on conditioning as she tries to get ready to play the very fast-paced style the Tigers will use this year.

"Keke is coming along," Fortner says. "It is a process for her with her conditioning. That is the biggest problem for her to overcome now and maintain any period of time with intensity and being able to contribute.

"She is scoring the ball better than any time than she has in the past," Fortner says. "Her confidence is better in that regard, but again it is her conditioning that will make a difference in what kind of time she gets on the floor."

The Tigers will tip off their exhibition game at 2 p.m. on Sunday and then open the regular season on a week from Friday at Alabama A&M in Huntsville.

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