July 30, 2013
Allen Payne returns as a starter for Auburn (Todd Van Emst)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Tony Barbee needs a new starting lineup. What better place to look for one than The Bahamas?
The Auburn basketball coach will takes his Tigers there Friday for a week of practice, and games against a pair of local teams. The real benefit, he says, is already locked in after practicing in Auburn Arena for the last several weeks, a special benefit of extra practice allowed for teams playing out the country.
Auburn needs the time. It'll have a new point guard, for sure, and likely two other new starters from a team that went 9-23 last season. Auburn returns just four players from last season.
"The biggest part of this is a bonding experience," Barbee said. "Obviously, the 10 days of practice have been invaluable, probably the most important part of this: Getting these new guys acclimated in how we do things in a casual, more relaxed atmosphere."
Auburn is playing the Real Deal Shockers on Aug. 6 and the Bahamas All-Stars on Aug. 8, but, in truth, Barbee said, "I don't even care who we're playing."
"We could of played more games, but for me, it wasn't about the games, it was about the 10 days of practice and the bonding experience."
Barbee, in his fourth season, said the trip "would be a team of all the guys I recruited, and this would be a good head start get all the pieces on the same page."
Auburn returns two starters in Allen Payne and Chris Denson. It lost another returnee this month when Shaq Johnson was dismissed after an arrest. Barbee said he has capable replacements for the small forward spot.
"I think it will be fairly smooth transition with the new guys.," he said. "We have multiple pieces that can play in that position. Allen Payne can play that small forward position, a guy with experience. KT (Harrell) can play any of the three guard positions because of his size and physicality. He can move into that small forward position. Chris Griffin has had a tremendous start to camp this summer. He has great size, great presence, and unbelievable shooting ability at that position. He can spread the floor. Dion Wade can play that position."
Barbee said he's needs another non-conference game before Auburn can release its schedule.
Money raised from Barbee's charity golf tournament Sept. 27 will benefit the children of former player Korvotney Barber, who drowned early this month in Panama City Beach.
"It's for the two young kids, just knowing they're going to need help, they're going to need support. And as much as we can help them from our side, we're willing to do that," Barbee said.
Barbee said sophomore forward Jordan Granger has impressed in the early workouts.
"He's had an awakening from his freshman year. He's the player I thought I recruited. He's being active, he's battling, he's being active, he's gotten stronger and he's really worked on his offensive game," Barbee said.
Seven-footer Benas Griciunas has impressed in the short time he's been on campus via Findlay Prep and Silute, Lithuania.
"It's funny that Benas, just stepping off the plane from Lithuania, he's coming here in two days of practice, it's like he's been here the whole month," Barbee said.Bahamas Notes
Charles Goldberg writers for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine