By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – New-look Auburn basketball? Coach Bruce Pearl isn't fooling around. The Tigers are projected to use a 10-man rotation and start three freshmen in Friday's only exhibition game of the season.
Look for new faces when the Tigers play Division II Montevallo at 8:30 p.m. in Auburn's Arena, and one of them will be at the point. Freshman Jared Harper, who Pearl says is worth the price of admission, will get the call at point guard, and will be joined by two other newcomers in freshman guard Mustapha Heron and redshirt freshman forward Danjel Purifoy. Sophomore Horace Spencer returns to start at forward and senior T.J. Dunans will start at guard.
There's no center in this lineup, a lineup that Pearl has said will be quick and deep, but perhaps a little short around the basket. He hopes to have a better feel about that before Auburn opens the regular season Nov. 11 against North Florida at home.
"Every day I learn something about my team," Pearl said. "I go home from practice about half the time knowing how much we have to learn; and I go home about half the time thinking about how far we've come in a short period of time."
Auburn returns about 40 percent of its scoring and 30 percent of its rebounding, but that's far down the experience ladder in the SEC. So Auburn will welcome Harper, Heron and Purifoy, as well as transfer LaRon Smith, freshman Anfernee McLemore and transfer Ronnie Johnson.
Harper, the true freshman, will be running the show at point with Johnson vying for playing time.
"Jared has the edge right now, but they'll both play," Pearl said. "They're both fast, and they're both quick. They both can go by you. And they're both pretty good defenders. And so not a lot changes.
"Our point guard play is going to be improved. That's what you’re looking for, and I'm hoping the area of improvement is not just from the ability to score. Last year, Kareem Canty was a brilliant scorer and won games for us with his ability to score. I think because Jared and Ronnie don't have that availability, they're ability is to make others better offensively and defensively, and I think ultimately that will help our team."
That'll be the theme for Auburn's Bruce Pearl in exhibition game against Montevallo at 8:30 Friday night. Video pic.twitter.com/ZjvJA6uW8K
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) November 3, 2016
Auburn scrimmaged against Chattanooga last weekend, and Pearl said he hopes the Tigers will use the exhibition game to again "play together defensively and offensively. I thought that was one really good theme from our scrimmage last week.
"We'll play 10 guys, and I think our strength is our depth. So, I think there will continue to be position competition for playing time, for roles, for starting positions as we continue to progress. We can withstand injury or foul trouble.
"I feel very, very confident about the 10 guys that I have out there are going to be able to play effectively."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine