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Boubacar Sylla of Paris is expected to help Auburn's inside game. Sylla stands 7-foot-1.
AP photo by Todd Van Emst
Boubacar Sylla of Paris is expected to help Auburn's inside game. Sylla stands 7-foot-1.

New year, old look for Auburn
Lebo concerned team has same drawbacks as former squads did

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com ∑ 340-2460

AUBURN — Jeff Lebo is back where he started from when he took over Auburn's basketball program four years ago.

Just a day from the season opener, Lebo has a team that's full of mostly guards. His one big man is inexperienced. He has little depth. And he's concerned about his team's shooting.

"I guess the team is very experienced," said Lebo, trying to find a silver lining as his Tigers prepare to travel to New Orleans, La., for the season's first game against Tulane on Friday night.

Auburn's high expectations took a tumble about a week ago when Lebo announced last season's leading scorer, Josh Dollard, would not play this season because of undisclosed medical reasons.

The coach also said Quan Prowell, the team's second leading scorer, would be suspended for the first six games because he violated team rules. The two starters combined to score 24.5 points a game during Auburn's 17-15 campaign a year ago.

"We go from one extreme to another in a short period of time," Lebo said.

The team's hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003 took a hit, but Lebo hasn't discussed any goals with his players.

"We're taking it one day at a time," he said. "I know it's frustrating for everybody."

With the absence of Dollard and Prowell, young players will be forced to grow up quickly. Players like true freshman Boubacar Sylla and sophomore Matt Heramb and Lucas Hargrove should see more playing time than they expected.

A 7-foot-1, 225-pounder from Paris, Sylla "bothers" opponent's shots and vision, Lebo said. Lebo is teaching Sylla to make opponents shoot over him instead of shooting around him.

"He's very difficult to score over," Lebo said. "He can bother people in and around the basket area just with his size."

More importance will be placed on the versatile Frank Tolbert, who could play any position on the floor this season. Tolbert, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior, averaged 11.8 points a game and 4.8 rebounds.

Despite missing almost 35 percent of their points from last season, Tolbert said he still thinks Auburn could be "one of the top teams in the SEC."

Auburnís hoops season begins

Season opener: Friday at Tulane, 8 p.m.

Last seasonís record: 17-15 (7-9 SEC).

Starters returning: G Frank Tolbert, Sr., 11.8 ppg., 4.8 rpg.; F Vot Barber, Jr., 11.3 ppg., 6.6 rpg., 1.7 bpg.; F Rasheem Barrett, Jr., 11 ppg., 3.9 rpg.

Analysis: Auburnís leading scorer from a year ago, Josh Dollard, will redshirt this season because of undisclosed medical reasons. Quan Prowell, the second-leading scorer from last season, will miss the first six games of this season for violating team rules. Young players like true freshman Boubacar Sylla and sophomores Lucas Hargrove and Matt Heramb will need to fill the void.

Ross Dellenger

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