June 30, 2014
Bruce Pearl likes what he's seen so far at Auburn
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Bruce Pearl says his new Auburn basketball team needs to be more physical, and he's seen in a move in that direction already in off-season workouts.
A few days after celebrating Auburn's past at a fun lettermen's reunion, Pearl was talking some nuts-and-bolts basketball during a summer-time SEC teleconference Monday, saying big-bodied 6-foot-7, 261-pound junior college transfer power forward Cinmeon Bowers and driving guard Antoine Mason have impressed. They are two of six new players that dot the roster.
Mason is the nation's leading returning scorer, thanks to averaging 25.6 points per game last year at Niagara. He's bringing his game to Auburn and, thanks to having already graduated, is eligible this coming season.
Pearl said Bowers has a chance to be "dominant rebounder."
"He likes being there and he likes to find contact," Pearl said. Actually both he and Mason have a chance to really lead our team in free throws attempted because they like to draw contact. Again, he's got an SEC body, he's got a physical presence and if you look at the three most physical teams in our league last year, all three of those teams were in the NCAA Tournament: Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee.
"Cinmeon has a real man's body and he's got a skill level to be able to put the ball down on the floor and create that can make him a match-up problem," Pearl said. "Those are two really nice pieces that have got very strong dimensions."
Bowers and Mason, and the others, are working on their moves with the intent of quickly contributing.
"We lost those three seniors who logged a lot of minutes," Pearl said. "Mason will get to the rim, he'll get in the lane and he can score. He'll get to the foul line. They're both physical players, which is something we lacked."
Pearl said he's ready to go, telling those at the lettermen's reunion that "I'm not asking you to be patient. We've been patient long enough."
Pearl knows the way of the SEC, having coached at Tennessee for six years. Now, he's back in the league.
"For every coach who is starting new, it's fresh, it's exciting, it's new," he said. "A new town and a new community. A new church and a new synagogue. New charities and new friends. A new staff and new players. Putting it all together. And then just embracing a community and a university and the history; and then just trying to add to it.
"I believe it's important that you have to have some success in the first few years. I know everybody likes to talk about being patient. There's momentum when you first get hired, but after a few years and you're not winning, the shine rubs off the apple pretty quickly. I don't know how we've done so far. Time will tell. I do love the reception that we've had. I love the response of our fan base. We have a chance to sell out a lot of our games this year. The Auburn family has been wonderful. It's been 11 years since they've been to the tournament, and they're anxious to get back.
"I've been to the tournament 17 times in 19 years, but, at the same time, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done. One of my challenges is going to be the coaching aspect. I've been out for three years. The game has changed some. I've got to be able to make some adjustment. Just because what we do worked three or four years ago, I'll have to make adjustments with our system to make sure it still works."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: