October 16, 2009

Basketball practice begins

Coming off a 24-win season, the second-most in school history, Auburn basketball begins its 2009-10 campaign Friday with the start of practice.

This season represents head coach Jeff Lebo's sixth on the Plains and the final one for Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, which has been home for the Tigers the past 42 years.

"We are very excited about the new start of the season," Lebo said. "…It will be our last year in the arena, and we are excited about that. We're also excited about our new arena. I can't wait to get over there."

Auburn's new basketball arena is on track to be completed next summer and open for the 2010-11 season. But before Lebo can get too excited about AU's new home, he's hoping his five seniors will help to close Beard-Eaves in style after reaching the NIT quarterfinals last season.

"We had so many meaningful games coming down the stretch. Every game seemed to grow with importance," Lebo said. "So for our guys coming back and being able to play in those kind of games, I think that is going to be very valuable for our group. We have a taste of what it was like, a taste of success, a taste of postseason and also a taste of not making it to the NCAA Tournament. They're hungry.

"We had a good offseason, and the kids have worked hard, so it's going to be very helpful for the guys that played for us last year."

Senior point guard DeWayne Reed is back after leading the Tigers in scoring (13.2 ppg), assists (3.7) and steals (1.9). Two other senior starters return in shooting guard Tay Waller, who led AU with 100 made 3-pointers, and forward Lucas Hargrove, who was second on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game.

DeWayne Reed was probably the most improved player in the SEC last year," Lebo said. "…He's probably been our best player, no doubt in workouts and been our most consistent guy, offensively and defensively. It's like having a quarterback. You want an experienced guy back there that has been through the wars.

"He's starting to understand his position much more and his toughness, mental and physical, has been very good. He's going to be one of the top point guards in the league."

Hargrove, who has bulked up to 220 pound in the offseason, is expected to play both small and power forward.

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