July 8, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN — Tony Barbee figures he'll have eight new basketball players once everybody shows up this preseason, so what better way to develop some much-needed chemistry than to practice…
Yep, Auburn practiced Sunday, taking advantage of a rule that allows teams that are going to a foreign country for games to begin practicing in the heat of the summer. Auburn is headed to The Bahamas for exhibition games in early August, and that has put the Tigers on the court already.
"That's the jumpstart. We're starting almost a full two months before everybody else," Barbee said before Monday's practice. Auburn needs the time, with new point guards Tahj Shamsid-Deen and junior college transfer Malcolm Canada, and a variety of other newcomers who will try to mesh with the returning veterans from a team that went 9-23 last season. The Tigers didn't invent this opportunity for extra practice, but are happy to have it.
"This is a huge advantage. That's why everybody does it," Barbee said. "We're going to use it from an educational standpoint with the guys visiting a foreign country, but it is also a positive we get a head start in developing chemistry, and getting in your system offensively and defensively."
The early returns?
"It's still developing. But the energy and the camaraderie in the practices have been night and day from what it has been," Barbee said.
Allen Payne is a survivor of last season. He said the memory of the difficult times is a motivating factor.
"That’s all we say, when we’re feeling down or we’re feeling tired from weights or pick-up or the two hours we have a week. We say, ‘You know what, it’s not like we won a national champions.’ We won nine games last year, and that’s not good enough," he said. "That’s not up to any of our standards. It’s big motivation. It’s the thing we turn back to whenever we feel like we’re struggling physically and mentally."
Payne reported he's gained 20 pounds and now weighs 225.
"Not just Allen, all of the guys have worked extremely hard in the weight room since the season has ended," Barbee said. "There's a certain look I want to have when we go to the court this year, and it's one where physically, we look like the biggest team going to the floor, and not the smallest team, because I think this game is won with the mental toughness and physical toughness. That's developed in the weight room. It's taken us a few years to get caught up to speed."
Barbee said Shaq Johnson "looks like he could be playing middle linebacker across the street" and is up to 227 pounds. He said 7-foot center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum is up to 245. Jordan Granger has gained 15 pounds to 230.
"He's starting to physically look the part," Barbee said. "But recruiting is a big part of it, too."
Barbee said the incoming class is bigger already.
"We've addressed a lot of areas," Barbee said, "not just in that weight room but through recruiting."
Charles Goldberg writes for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: