Barbee Discusses Transition and His Players

New Auburn men's basketball coach Tony Barbee talks about how the holdover players he inherited are adjusting to the new Auburn staff.

Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee has been working almost non-stop making the transition from head basketball coach at UTEP to head coach of the Auburn Tigers in the last month.

He has been busy on the recruiting trail, he has hired a complete coaching staff and Barbee has been promoting Auburn basketball to students, fans and anyone who is interested in the program.

A photo of an eagle photo at the new Auburn Arena is shown.

The coach notes that he has also been working on building a relationship with the Auburn players already on campus who were recruited by and played for Coach Jeff Lebo, who was fired and later rehired at East Carolina. Barbee and his assistants were allowed to have limited offseason workouts with the players during spring semester, but won't be able to conduct full squad workouts until fall semester.

"It is hard on everybody," Barbee says of the transition going on in Auburn basketball. "Change is never easy. It is always hard, but sometimes it is for the better.

"I think the kids have enjoyed the small amount of time we have been able to spend with them on the court," he says. "There is a sense of freedom that comes with playing in this style (dribble-drive offense, up-tempo) of playing, but that is a double-edge sword as kids want exposure. If you can play in this system you are really good and you have got a chance to get exposure.

"If you can't play, the other side of exposure is you get exposed so there is that aspect of it as well," Barbee adds. "I think the kids got a small sense in the limited amount of time we had on the floor together toward the end of the semester of the type of freedom they can have in this system if they can play.

"We have had several workouts here over the last month being on the job," the coach notes. "We are evaluating them as players, evaluating them in the weight room and we have been evaluating them on work ethic. All of those things have been good."

The Tigers must replace seniors Lucas Hargrove, DeWayne Reed, Tay Waller, Brendon Knox and Johnnie Lett from the 2009-2010 squad that finished 15-17 overall and 6-10 in the SEC. Players returning include 6-5 guard Andre Malone, 6-9 forward Ty Armstrong, 6-3 walk-on guard Larry Williams Jr., 6-5 guard Tony Neysmith, 6-1 guard Frankie Sullivan, 6-8 forward Kenny Gabriel, 6-5 walk-on forward Jake Drum, 6-5 guard/forward Earnest Ross and 6-10 center Rob Chubb.

Frankie Sullivan (left) battles for the basketball this past season.

Commenting on if he believes the players he inherited from the Lebo Era can adapt to his style of play, Barbee says, "Absolutely. We have got a very athletic group."

The coach says from what he has seen the Tigers have plenty of guys who can play what are traditionally known as the shooting guard and small forward positions. However, the Tigers look thin elsewhere.

"I think we have some definite depth issues in a couple of areas," Barbee says. "One is in the point guard area with Josh Wallace being our only true point guard on the roster. I think we have some depth issues on the front line with Rob (Chubb) and Ty (Armstrong) being our only power position players--whether you call them power forwards, centers or strong forward. However you look at it the depth at those two positions is lacking. We are trying to fill some holes."

One possibility to fill a hole is using Sullivan, who will be a junior this coming season, as a point guard. Barbee says, "He has the skill to do it, but the one thing you don't want to do with a guy like Frankie is take away from his strength, which is scoring the basketball. He has the still level to play the position. Whether he has the mentality to play the position is a totally different thing."

Barbee says that he will need to evaluate Sullivan in a five-on-five setting to get a better feel for his ability to play the point for the 2010-2011 season.

Josh Langford

So far the coach has one spring signee to add to the roster with 6-7 forward Josh Langford out of Lee High in Huntsville headed to Auburn this summer. The signee is a high-profile one with Langford ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the state by the Birmingham News.

The Tigers could also be signing 6-9 power forward Luke Cothron, another native of Huntsville, this spring. Cothron, who previously verbally committed to North Carolina State, says he expects to sign with Barbee's Tigers sometime in May. If that happens it would fill Auburn's roster for the 2010-2011 season with Barbee noting that he is not expecting any attrition from the returning players.

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