Auburn, Ala.--After leading his team to 24 wins and the quarter-finals of the NIT, Korvotney Barber said he can feel good about his senior season as an Auburn basketball player.
“I think we set the foundation for Auburn basketball,” Barber told Inside the Auburn Tigers on Monday night after being named Most Valuable Player for the 2008-2009 season. “Next year if the guys stay focused and stay together, they will be alright. Maybe they will do even better things than we did this season.”
Barber, Quantez Robertson and Rasheem Barrett were honored along with senior walk-on Drew Smith as more than 300 fans attended a sendoff for the Tigers by the Auburn Tipoff Club at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center.
Barber won five other awards in addition to the Most Valuable Player trophy. “I don’t think it was just me who deserved MVP,” he said. “I think all of the seniors did. We put in a lot of hard work to have such a good season.”
The senior forward just returned to Auburn after attending the NBA Tryout Camp in Portsmouth, Va. “The first game I played pretty well, but the last two I didn’t do so well and I pulled my groin the last two games,” he said.
“All of the scouts were there and saw me and I have been invited to go out to Los Angeles on Thursday to work out (for pro scouts) there,” he added.
Lebo had high praise for the seniors. “I have got a lot of respect for those guys taking a chance on us as coaches and this basketball program,” said Lebo, noting he considers this season’s seniors his first full recruiting class at Auburn.
“It really wasn’t fashionable at that time to come to Auburn,” Lebo said. “It was a hard time and we were going through a lot of different things.
Barber shared the Outstanding Offensive Player Award with Barrett and juniors DeWayne Reed and Tay Waller. For the third straight year, Robertson was named the team’s defensive MVP and he won the Paul Lambert Leadership Award.
Rasheem Barrett gets a hug at Monday night's ceremony in Auburn.
Smith received the Academic Achievement Award to go with his Brad Davis SEC Community Service Post-Graduate Scholarship that will help cover his expenses for medical school.
Quantez Robertson talks to fans on Monday night at the Auburn Tipoff Club's awards ceremony.
To replace this year’s senior class, Lebo has four signees coming in plus a pair of transfers who will be eligible after redshirting this season.
Lebo says that he is expecting 6-7 forward Kenny Gabriel from Charlotte, N.C., to be an immediate contributor after spending the past season as a freshman at Paris, Tex., Junior College. “He has got to get stronger, but he is certainly very, very talented,” Lebo said.
Lebo said that 6-5 guard/forward Earnest Ross from Panther Creek High in Cary, N.C., and 6-5 guard Andre Malone from South Atlanta High are good shooters who should be physically ready to play in the SEC. The Tigers have also signed 6-10 post player Robert Chubb from Peachtree City, Ga., who played his senior season at Montverde Academy in Orlando, Fla., and played well against strong competition.
The spring signing period starts on Wednesday. Auburn may add one more prospect in the spring period, but that is not certain, Lebo said. The Tigers are in the mix with 6-8 forward Wendell Lewis from Selma High School, who is also considering Mississippi State and Western Kentucky.
“I feel we have a good nucleus of kids coming back, a very good recruiting class and an expectation level now that is higher and that is always good,” Lebo said.
Tony Neysmith, a 6-5, 205-pound point guard who transferred to Auburn from Oklahoma last season, will be a redshirt sophomore next season. “He is not a great outside shooter, but can defend a lot of positions. He is probably kind of similar to Tez (Robertson)--a defensive guy with a little bit bigger body than Tez.”
Brandon McGee, a 6-7, 220 forward from Chicago, transferred to Auburn last year from Indiana University and will be a redshirt sophomore. He can play both small forward the power forward. “He is probably a little better at the four (power forward)--kind of a face-up four who can shoot a little bit and bring some athleticism to the game.”
Drew Smith won the academic achievement award and will graduate with close to a perfect grade point average while spending four seasons as a walk-on.
Lebo noted that he agreed with Barber that the 2008-2009 team set a foundation for more success.
“We saw character out there, we saw incredible toughness, we saw the ability to come from behind and we saw guys who gave everything that they had every single night,” Lebo said. “We saw a team that grew as the season went along and we saw a team that got confident, and you could see how confidence plays such a big part in the game of basketball.”
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