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'So many players': Auburn basketball happy with scrimmage
Horace Spencer, and Bruce Pearl, have reason to be happy heading into the season
Oct. 13, 2016

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. TJ Lang made the last shot in the last second of Wednesday night's basketball scrimmage, led his team to victory and then talked of bigger things for Auburn.

Lang said the Tigers have more talent across the board this season thanks to an influx of newcomers who can do it all.

"It's great to know that whatever happens, if you're having a bad game, bad couple stretch of games, you have somebody behind you that's just as good that's coming in ready to play," Lang said. "We have two to three guys at every position, so we're really going to wear other teams down, where they're going to play six to seven guys and we're going to play 10. I feel like we're going to win a lot of games that way."

Coach Bruce Pearl must like that wear-down-the-opposition angle, because he stopped the scrimmage and made the players run the length of the court several times when he thought they were dragging in the final minutes.

Lang showed he wasn't tired when he hit a 3-pointer to win the final game. And he figures there's plenty of that to go around.

"Everybody is looking at us to make the next step, so it's really a great feeling. We're working hard every day to live up those expectations," Lang said.

Three of the top four scorers Wednesday didn't play last year: Redshirt freshman Danjel Purifoy had 22 points, six rebounds and five steals; freshman Jared Harper had 18 points, and freshman Anfernee McLemore had 14 points and 1 rebounds. Sophomore Bryce Brown got in with 16 points.

Lang is buoyed by a variety of newcomers, including transfers Ronnie Johnson from Houston, and LaRon Smith from Bethune-Cookman. And then there are the freshmen: Purifoy, who was with the team but sat out last year; Mustapha Heron, Harper and McLemore.

"They just came in with a different mentality than most other freshmen came in," Lang said. "They came in with the mentality that, 'We're going to help right away in any way that we can.' Anfernee is an unbelievable rebounder, an unbelievable athlete. He does all the little things. Mustapha is going to be a great player this year, and if he stays next year, he's going to be a terrific player. Everybody has always seen what Jared can do. I feel like he's going to be one of the best freshman point guards in the SEC. We've all kind of bought into the team aspect. We don't have any egos on this team, which is really refreshing.”

"We don't really have to ever press for anything. We have so many players who can do so many different things that we don't have to rely on one person a night to get it done. It's going to be somebody different every night."

Auburn returns 41.2 percent of its scoring, mostly from Lang, T.J. Dunans, Bryce Brown and Horace Spencer.

A variety of players played point guard last year, from Kareem Canty to big Cinmeon Bowers to finally Dunans, who was asked to fill in. This year it looks to be Johnson and Harper.

"We've clearly upgraded the position," Pearl said.

Lang reinforced that opinion.

"I feel like we have two of the best point guards in the country," he said. "Ronnie is experienced. He's been at Purdue. He's been at Houston. He's been in winning programs so he knows what it takes to win, so he brings in that competitive aspect. I feel like Jared is one of the best freshmen point guards in the country. He's quick. He can really shoot it. He can really pass," Lang said.



Pearl said he liked what he saw in the scrimmage.

"The way we went best on best, both games came down to a last-second shot, which tells me there's not a tremendous separation," Pearl said. "It was good from that standpoint. We're not very big and you could see that, but we're fast, we're athletic, we shoot it pretty well, we're deep and I'm hoping that our style of play will bother opponents. But we've got to gang tackle, we've got to gang rebound. If we can shore some of that up, I think we're off to a pretty good start."

Auburn is working toward an exhibition game against Montevallo on Nov. 4 before opening the regular season against North Florida on Nov. 11.  

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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