Auburn, Ala.--Ready or not, and new Auburn head coach Tony Barbee is probably leaning toward “not,” it’s almost time for his first Auburn basketball team to play its first game.
Tipoff time is set for 7 p.m. at the new Auburn Arena as the 2010-2011 Tigers play an exhibition game vs. the University of West Alabama.
“The main things we will be looking for are the effort, the hustle, the scrapiness and the attention to detail on defense because that has to be our identity,” Barbee tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. “That is what we have been focused on through these early practices so I expect the defense to be way ahead of the offense.
“Even though I don’t want us to be, I expect us to be a little bit sloppy offensively with our timing off and our shooting off because we have spent the majority of our time on our rebounding, on our defense and on our toughness,” Barbee says. “That is the type of team we are going to have to be to survive. We are going to have to hang our hats on those areas.”
Barbee came to Auburn in the spring to replace Jeff Lebo, who was fired after a 15-17 season. Barbee led UTEP to the Conference USA championship last season before taking the rebuilding assignment at Auburn.
The coach says he wants to put a team on the court that will be relentless on defense. “I don’t think we have the type of team that is going to outscore anybody,” he notes.
In addition to replacing four starters and key backups from the 2009-2010 team, the only returning starter and only player back who scored in double figures last year, junior guard Frankie Sullivan, is out after having ACL surgery. The same is true of sophomore post player Ty Armstrong, who would have likely been a starter.
The team’s top two returning scorers are 6-5 sophomore guard Earnest Ross and 6-8 junior forward Kenny Gabriel. Both averaged just 2.8 points per game last season. Andre Malone, a 6-5 sophomore guard, averaged 2.7 points per game.
Newcomers include 6-6 guard Josh Langford, 6-6 guard/forward Allen Payne, 6-2 guard Chris Denson and 6-8 forward Adrian Forbes, a junior transfer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.
“We will probably struggle to score this year so we better be darn good defensively to give ourselves a chance to survive and win,” Barbee says.
Tony Barbee is shown at the Auburn Arena's grand opening night in October.
The coach notes that the Tigers have a lot of nagging injuries that normally occur during preseason workouts, but expects everyone to be ready for action on Wednesday night except for Sullivan and Armstrong along with guard Varez Ward, who has not been cleared to play yet after transferring into the program from Texas.
Barbee says it is too early to know what the starting lineup will be for this team. “On Wednesday night we will look at a lot of different combinations,” he says. “We are trying to figure out which parts work best together. As long as we commit ourselves to competing on every play defensively like our life depends on it we will be okay.”
The Tigers will play another exhibition game on Nov. 8th vs. Columbus College prior to opening the regular season at home on Friday, Nov. 12th vs. UNC-Asheville.
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