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Auburn basketball hearing the buzz about new season
Oct. 21, 2014

Auburn players met the press, talked basketball Tuesday

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Antoine Mason is new to Auburn, but not to reality. He knows this is football season in the SEC. 

Still, he says there's more than a hint of his sport, basketball, in the air.

"It's a big buzz. In football season you don't usually hear about basketball, but they're coming up to us saying their expecting big things. We're just trying to hold our end," said Mason.

Coach Bruce Pearl and his players met with the media in Auburn on Tuesday before a trip to Tipoff '15, the SEC's media day in Charlotte on Wednesday.

Auburn will talk more basketball there. Some of it may be the theme of what was said Tuesday: There's a new excitement with Pearl at the helm.

"People are already talking about how excited they are about basketball," said KT Harrell, Auburn's leading returning scorer. "There's a lot of buzz going around."

Harrell, like Mason, transferred to Auburn, only he did it before last season from Virginia. But he's from Montgomery, and he welcomes the new-found excitement. He says what he mostly knew of Auburn basketball before arriving was Charles Barkley.

Now, "we've got high expectations. I think Coach raised them, and we've raised them for ourselves," Harrell said.

Auburn has been practicing for a couple of weeks and Pearl said it's gone well enough. But he also said the program has probably made greater strides off the court, in season ticket sales and building excitement, than what it has accomplished in practice. Auburn is still looking for chemistry after Pearl brought in a new group of players.

"Go to practice and I'm generally not pleased. Go back and watch the tape, and it's generally better than I thought. I don't know what that means," Pearl said.

And then? Pearl predicted three or four SEC teams would be in the Top 25 by season's end. And then?

"There are many teams that are going to be fighting for the bubble. I'm hoping that we are one of those teams," he said. "What is a bubble? A bubble is the middle of the league. Can we get there? Can we go from the bottom of the league to the middle of the league? When you get into the middle of the league, they start talking about postseason. Those are my goals for this team. I want to still be playing in postseason."

Pearl said Tahj Shamsid-Deen has been the best player in practice, though last year's point guard is now playing the other guard position. He said Tuesday that's OK.

"In our offense, everybody is going to get a chance to touch the ball," Shamsid-Deen said. "Coach wants me to be aggressive, take the open shot."

Shamsid-Deen gets it because Pearl is "a very social person. He relates to us and knows how we feel. He communicates very well.

"He makes you go harder than you've ever gone before."

Pearl says Shamsid-Deen is "always in the right place at the right time defensively. He puts up productive offense numbers because he is able to get off the bounce a little bit. He is making shots."

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



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