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Auburn plays on as Tigers remember Antoine Mason's dad
March 2, 2015

Auburn's Bruce Pearl: 'I will be a part of this program for a long time'

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- It's been an unevenseason for Bruce Pearl, from being restricted in recruiting, to reshaping the Auburn roster, to his first losing season, to seeing the father of one of his players die.

But the Auburn basketball coach says don't worry about him. He's in it for the long haul.

"I will be a part of this program for a long time," he said Monday.

Auburn heads to Missouri for its next-to-last regular-season game at 8 p.m. Tuesday without second-leading scorer Antoine Mason, who is in New York mourning the death of his father, former NBA standout Anthony Mason, who died last Saturday. Auburn played without him at Texas A&M and lost 80-55.

The Tigers 12-17 overall and 4-12 in the SEC will face Missouri, which is 8-21 overall and 2-14 in the league, on the SEC Network.

Auburn already had a thin roster before losing starting guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen, one of its best defenders, to season-ending shoulder injuries after a game against Arkansas on Feb. 10. Now, the Tigers are without Mason, who may also miss Saturday's regular-season finale against Georgia.

"I just think we will have to wait and see. Whatever they decide we will support," Pearl said.

Auburn is wearing a black ribbon as a sign of respect for the Mason family.

Antoine and brothers Anthony Jr. and Armon were at their father's bedside last weekend. The family spent the last weeks at the hospital "loving, supporting and praying for him," Armon's mother, Mona Lancaster, told the New York Daily News.

Mason's death hit Auburn, as it did fans of the New York Knicks, who remember him as tough and beloved player.

"It was very difficult because Anthony was very present around practices and games," Pearl said. "He would sit there after practice and he would spend as much time with Kareem (Canty) or Cinmeon (Bowers) or any of the other players as he did with Antoine.

"He would tell you what he thought. For some of those guys that did not have a father that would be here watching the games and encouraging them and criticizing them, Anthony did that for a lot of those guys. That's just who he was. It was difficult. And it is difficult not having some of the guys that could help us be successful like at a time when we were successful earlier in the year. There just isn't that much margin for error."

Pearl said he talks to Antoine Mason. "The biggest thing is that it hurts. He is just going through it every day. There is just a huge void in his life. It is a test of his faith."

Auburn beat Missouri 85-79 in Auburn Arena on Jan. 10.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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