Sept. 27, 2013
Chris Denson and Auburn looking to make a point this season (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN – Chris Denson's two goals for this season's Auburn basketball team go hand in hand.
"Winning and prove all our doubters wrong," he says.
Auburn starts practice Saturday already with a jump on most everybody else in the country. The Tigers practiced 10 times in conjunction with their exhibition trip to The Bahamas in August, and they think that will pay dividends.
Auburn returns only four players from last year's 9-23 team, so the extra work was critical.
"We had a great start," Denson said. "We like where we're going. This is the most confident I've ever been with a team here."
The most dramatic change is at point guard where Auburn will start over with Tahj Shamsid-Deen and Malcolm Canada. Auburn's four returning players are Denson, a guard; Allen Payne, a forward; Jordan Granger, a forward; and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, a center.
Forward KT Harrell was with the team last year, but didn't play after transferring from Virginia. He's expected to make an impact early.
Coach Tony Barbee says his team is ready to go.
"Coming off the trip to The Bahamas and the extra practice we got this summer, we are way ahead of the curve for this time of the year," he says. "We're not going to have go 3½, four-hour practices because we're so far ahead. It's almost like we've got a veteran group, even with the new guys we've got."
Barbee ordered up the trip to The Bahamas as a bonding experience.
"We really weren't stressing basketball until practice and the games came," Payne said. "Any other time we were all together, the players and the coaches, building a family atmosphere and a brotherhood between all of us."
There is still work to do. Auburn lost its leading scorer in Frankie Sullivan, its leading rebounder in Rob Chubb and its assist leader in Josh Wallace.
But Denson likes the idea that the new Tigers can hit the floor running Saturday after the early summer practices.
"It's an advantage because we don't have to start from scratch. We know what drills to do," Denson said. "We call it Level 5. A Level 5 practice is the highest you can go. We know how to start at Level 5 practice already. Just having a head start is a good thing."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine