Tiger Hoops Madness Opens Season With Fanfare For Auburn Basketball
Oct. 14, 2011
AUBURN - Year two of the Coach Tony Barbee era of Auburn Basketball began with flair at the Tiger Hoops Madness on Friday at Auburn Arena. Kenny Gabriel won the 3-point contest and was co-winners with guard Chris Denson for the slam dunk contest.
"It's a fun night," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "It is for the fans. There are a lot of reasons why you do these types of events, and it is a great way to get the season tipped off. I think the guys had a lot of fun. You saw their personalities come out tonight. Like I told them, it is real tomorrow. As it is hard and we start our grind, I want them to have the same type of fun as we grind it out in the real practices."
After a fireworks introduction for each player, the Tigers had an intrasquad scrimmage and the slam dunk contest that was judged by Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, former Auburn head coach Sonny Smith and stars John Mengelt and Marquis Daniels along with former Tigers and Pittsburgh Steeler Kendall Simmons and golfer Jason Dufner, the 2011 PGA Championship runner-up and 2011 Phoenix Open runner-up.
"We had a nice crowd out there and a nice atmosphere," said Gabriel. "I am glad the fans came out and supported us to see what we are about this year. I wasn't going to try to jump from the free throw line (in the dunk contest), and Coach didn't want me too, but I saw Chris get a 50, so I had to go for it to go for a tie."
Eleven lettermen return for Auburn in addition to junior guard Frankie Sullivan, who only played in six games last year, redshirt Texas transfer Varez Ward, redshirt Clemson transfer Noel Johnson, who will be eligible after this fall semester, and a trio of freshmen in guard Cedrick McAfee and 6-foot-10 center Willy Kouassi and 6-foot-8 forward Bernard Morena.
"You look out there tonight and I think one of them stood out like a sore thumb in Willy Kouassi," said Barbee of how the newcomers looked. "That is why we recruited him, and that is what he does well. I think we counted in the first five trips up and down the floor, he had six rebounds. I don't know if any of our interior players averaged six rebounds for a game, and in our first five trips, he had six rebounds. That's what he does. He has a knack of rebounding the ball. He has a knack of getting his hands on the ball. He has an unbelievable instinct for blocking shots, and he plays extremely hard.
"I thought McAfee played well, too, of the newcomers," said Barbee. "He scores. He is electric, and he showed a little bit of that tonight. It was good to see Varez, even though he has been back off the injury and off the rehab, it was good to see him get that rust off of him and get in front of and play against some people."
The team signed autographs prior to the event that also included appearances by the Auburn cheerleaders, Tiger Paws, AU Pep Band and Aubie.
Auburn finished the season strong last year winning its final two regular season games over Ole Miss and at LSU when trailing by 15 or more points in the second half. Auburn defeated LSU 60-51 in Baton Rouge by going on a 35-9 run to erase a 15-point deficit with 13:47 remaining. The Tigers' 20-point comeback in the win over Ole Miss is the second largest in school history. Auburn recorded two of the four largest comebacks in school history with victories over Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Auburn erased a 19-point deficit in its 65-62 win over Mississippi State to tie for the third largest.
Gabriel is the Tigers' leading returning scorer and rebounder averaging 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds, won the 3-point shooting contest.
There were a variety of prizes given away to fans, including two pairs of tickets to the Auburn vs. Florida football game, an Under Armour gift certificate, an Under Armour sideline polo, a white Under Armour sideline jacket, a free round of golf at any Alabama Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course and more.
Season tickets for 2011-12 are available now with prices starting at just $125. Fans can also order tickets online by visiting www.AubTix.com , by phone at 1-855-282-2010 or in person at the Auburn Arena Ticket Office located at 250 Beard-Eaves Court (open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CT).
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