July 29, 2007
AUBURN - If it didn't say Auburn on the front of the practice jerseys, one may not have figured it out that it was the Tigers on Sunday as they went through their first of 10-straight practices in preparation for a three-game, six-day basketball tour of Cancun.
Coach Jeff Lebo welcomed back 11 lettermen for the two-hour workout, and they have never looked bigger, faster, stronger or more experieced.
"It is nice to have veterans as we jumped into things pretty quickly," said Lebo. "It is nice to have this many guys who have a semblance of how hard we are going to practice. We don't have as many, so I couldn't go as long because we only had 11 guys. It is good to have them back here in practice. It is a good taste."
The Tigers spent their opening practice working on the fast break, defensive drills and keeping things very basic.
"We fit in some basic side out-of-bounds plays," said Lebo. "In about 10 days, we have to play a game. It is hard to put everything in. We are not going to play much zone there and play man-to-man. Offensively, we are going to toy around with some different things."
The Tigers will continue to practice each day leading up to its Aug. 8 departure for Cancun.
"It felt great, and everybody came out intense and ready to work," said rising junior Quantez Robertson. "We came out here ready to work and to get ready for our trip to Cancun. Everybody is going hard to make everyone better to get ready for the upcoming season. We want to become a better team at this time of the year. I am very excited. We have everyone coming back, and we are a more experienced team than in the past, and we know what each other can do."
With 11 returning veteran players on the court, there was a distinct difference in the makeup of the Tigers.
"They have worked hard in the weight room," said Lebo. "Our strength coach, PK (Bryan Karkoska), has done a phenomenal job with them, and the kids deserve credit, too. He has worked them hard, and he has a plan for them. They are buying into it, and they have seen changes in their bodies. They have worked hard to get to this point. We are not in great shape, but we are in decent shape for this time of the year. In 10 days, we will be ready to go."
Auburn will play three games against teams in the Mexican Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional beginning Aug. 9 vs. Quintana Roo Pioneros followed by Selection Quintana Roo Aug. 10 and a second game vs. Quintana Roo Pioneros Aug. 11. All three games begin at 7 pm Central.