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July 21, 2013

Former Auburn hoops star Korvotney Barber found dead after apparent drowning in Panama City Beach

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra

Former Auburn basketball star Korvotney Barber was found dead from an apparent drowning on Sunday in Panama City Beach, Fla.

Auburn Basketball

The body of former Auburn basketball player Korvotney Barber was discovered Sunday evening after an apparent drowning off Panama City Beach, Fla. He played for the Tigers from 2005-09.

Cpl. Jason Gleason of the Panama City Beach (Fla.) Police Department confirmed Barber’s body was found between the Boardwalk Beach Condominiums and the nearby Top of the Gulf Condominiums by a passing civilian at 4:49 p.m. (ET), seconds after he washed ashore.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the devastatingly tragic and untimely death of Korvotney Barber,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said in an official university release Sunday. “The Auburn Family remembers ‘Vot’ as a relentless competitor with the heart of a champion. More importantly, those who knew him best remember him as a caring father who deeply loved his children and his family. Korvotney’s family and friends will remain in our thoughts and prayers during this profoundly sad time.”

According to police, Barber went missing at approximately 7:09 p.m. Saturday after going into the water with his wife and another friend, despite the beach being under double red flag conditions. Double red flags are posted to signal that the beach is closed and the public is forbidden to enter the water due to strong rip tides.

Thirty minutes after he was first reported missing Saturday, a search party consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida Wildlife Commission and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office helicopter set out to look for Barber. Gleason said the helicopter had to be grounded later due to inclement weather in the area.

The 26-year-old Manchester native starred at Manchester High School, earning numerous honors during his senior campaign in 2004-05, when he posted averages of 20 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks per game. That season, he led Manchester to a 22-4 overall record and a Class AA Sweet 16 appearance en route to garnering the Gatorade Player of the Year for Georgia and being selected as a McDonald’s All-American. Barber was also a member of the Georgia Blazers, a Columbus-based AAU team.

At Auburn, Barber averaged 10.9 points and 7.2 rebounds during his four-year career under former coach Jeff Lebo. His senior season in 2008-09 nearly saw him average a double-double, tallying 12.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

“The Auburn basketball program is deeply saddened to lose one its great players in Korvotney ‘Vot’ Barber,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said in a statement. “I was fortunate enough to meet ‘Vot’ just last week when he stopped by my office to introduce himself to me. What an impressive guy. Our prayers are with his family and loved ones.”

Barber went overseas after graduating from Auburn, playing for the Lugano Tigers, a team based in Switzerland. The Tigers finished with a 16-9 overall record this past season, good enough for second in the Swiss League’s Division A, the more prestigious of the league’s two divisions. Barber was the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.2 points per game and tied for the team-high in rebounds, grabbing 7.4 per contest.

Barber’s final game came against the Geneve Lions on May 31, which happened to be the deciding contest of the Swiss League’s best-of-five championship series.

In that game, Barber scored 10 points and collected six rebounds.

May 15, 2013

Rutgers guard Jerome Seagears transfers to Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Former Rutgers guard Jerome Seagears is transferring to Auburn.
Auburn coach Tony Barbee announced the signing of Seagears on Wednesday. Auburn is petitioning the NCAA for Seagears to be eligible to play next season.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior left Rutgers after coach Mike Rice was fired.
Seagears averaged 6.5 points and 2.6 assists last season. He played in all 31 games and started 19, scoring a career-high 21 points at Connecticut.
He also started 25 of the final 26 games as a freshman, when he averaged 7.7 points.
Seagears is the third Rutgers player to leave since Rice’s firing.
Guard Eli Carter has signed with Florida and swingman Mike Poole decided to go to Iona.
Seagears is Auburn’s sixth signee. The Tigers are coming off a 9-23 season.

May 1, 2013

Rutgers transfer Seagears in, Greene out as basketball roster turnover continues

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

Mississippi Auburn Basketball@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – Guys checking in and guys subbing out at a rapid pace marked – and sometimes marred – the Auburn men’s basketball team’s 2012-13 season.

Turns out the off-season transactions are following the trend.

Within a few hours of each other Wednesday, former Rutgers point guard Jerome Seagears announced his commitment to join the Tigers, while former Auburn point guard Brian Greene Jr. tweeted his decision to leave the program.

An Auburn spokesperson was unable to confirm either move, though a team source confirmed Greene’s departure. Head coach Tony Barbee has not made himself available to talk to reporters since the end of a 9-23 season March 13.

Seagears tweeted Wednesday, “I Will Be Attending Auburn University To Finish My Student Athletic Career!!! War Eagle”.

A 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard from Silver Spring, Md., Seagears averaged 7.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 63 games over the past two seasons with the Scarlet Knights, before coach Mike Rice was fired in early April amidst a player abuse scandal.

The web sites covering Auburn indicated Seagears and the Tigers will seek a waiver for him to play immediately this fall, foregoing the one-year transfer waiting period.

If Seagears is successful, that means in the roster’s current makeup, eight of Auburn’s 13 scholarship players in 2013-14 did not play last year for the Tigers.

Only guards Chris Denson and Shaq Johnson, forwards Allen Payne and Jordon Granger and center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum return, plus KT Harrell’s eligibility is reinstated after sitting out 2012-13 after transferring from Virginia.

Greene, who came to Auburn last summer from IMG Academy in Florida, averaged 2.9 points and made 42 percent of his 3-point tries amidst sporadic playing time.

Greene had this to say in the postgame locker room in Nashville after Auburn’s SEC Tournament defeat to Texas A&M: “I’m pretty sure this whole group will stick together. We’ve got a brotherhood that can’t be broken.”

Fellow guard Jordan Price decided to transfer out April 19.

Greene tweeted Wednesday evening from his hometown Chicago: “I’m announcing that I will be transferring from Auburn University. Thank you Tiger Nation for the support and good luck moving forward.” A little later, Greene thanked his followers for their support, adding “you will see me again.”

April 19, 2013

Jordan Price will transfer from Auburn

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

Florida Auburn BasketballAUBURN, Ala. – There is now room to accommodate all six of Auburn’s basketball newcomers, as freshman shooting guard Jordan Price will transfer out of the program.

An Auburn spokesperson confirmed the initial report Friday night by AuburnSports.com, which quoted Price’s father, Reaman.

Price was one of the two prizes of head coach Tony Barbee’s 2012 recruiting class, joining swingman Shaq Johnson with a four-star rating out of Decatur, Ga.

Price tied an SEC record by making 11 consecutive 3-pointers against lesser non-conference competition, but the potential for a breakout rookie year was stunted by a stress fracture in his foot suffered Christmas week.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound shooter averaged 5.4 points in 27 games, ranking fifth on the Tigers, and shot 39 percent from 3-point range. His 30 triples trailed only Frankie Sullivan and Noel Johnson, both outgoing seniors.

In the locker room following Auburn’s SEC tournament loss ending the season at 9-23, Price was less committal about returning than fellow freshmen Shaq Johnson and Brian Greene Jr. But he did say, “I feel pretty good about the future. A lot of the season was lessons for the future, so we know what not to do. We’re going to get back in the gym and get ready for next year.”

Auburn has seven scholarship players returning from last year’s roster, including slashing guard Chris Denson, shooting guard KT Harrell and combo guard Brian Greene Jr.

Three incoming recruits signed their letters of intent in November (PG Tajh Shamsid-Deen, C Benas Griciunas and C Ronald Delph), and Auburn unveiled the bios Friday for its latest signees this week. Two of them represented another country’s junior national team: center Matthew Atewe (Canada) and guard Dion Wade (Belgium), accompanied by forward Chris Griffin, who played at Murray State in 2011-12.

April 18, 2013

Baseball suspended by heavy rain; basketball team is oversigned, has received six signed NLIs

Staff report

It’s been a never-ending loop of playing from behind, and the Auburn baseball team will return to the hotel tonight still trailing.

Lightning suspended play of the Tigers’ opening game of a three-game series at No. 10 Mississippi State, with the Bulldogs leading 6-3 and batting with one out in the bottom of the seventh. The game will resume at its current point following Friday’s full nine-inning tilt.

This is the 31st out of 38 games Auburn has faced a deficit.

One bad inning has served as the difference so far – three walks and two errors provided MSU three runs in the third inning, despite the Bulldogs getting just one base hit (a single) in the frame.

Auburn made four fielding miscues through the first seven innings. Wes Rea has a 2-run home run for the host Bulldogs.

Starter Conner Kendrick lasted 5 1/3 innings walking four batters, yielding six runs but just two charged to him. With 17 regular season games remaining, the Tigers have permitted 50 unearned runs – one more than all of the 2012 season.

Auburn first baseman Garrett Cooper has an RBI double, and left fielder Cullen Wacker is 3-for-3 with a run driven in.

Pacelli and Chattahoochee Valley product Michael O’Neal is set to get the ball for Friday night’s game, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET and televised by CSS.

Oversigned: With Auburn basketball receiving signed national letters of intent from junior college power forward Chris Griffin Wednesday, and the same from small forward Dion Wade and center Matthew Atewe, the Tigers are oversigned.

Including the eight scholarship players scheduled to return, Auburn’s got 14 scholarships tied up for the 2013-14 school year. The NCAA Division I limit is 13.

An Auburn spokesman said head coach Tony Barbee would address reporters sometime after all signed letters were received, but was not aware when that would take place. The Tigers were 9-23, including 3-15 in the SEC, last season.

April 14, 2013

Auburn basketball over the scholarship limit on current players, prospective commits

Tony BarbeeBY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – Something’s going to have to give.

As the first day of spring signing period approaches within 72 hours, the Auburn men’s basketball plan presently has one too many scholarship players, following the verbal commitment of junior college small forward Chris Griffin Sunday morning, as first reported by the recruiting web sites covering Auburn.

Eight Tigers on the current roster are on scholarship (including KT Harrell, who sat out 2012-13 due to transfer rules after arriving from Virginia), three more signed an early national letter of intent in November, and now three others have said they plan to sign with Auburn as early as Wednesday.

That adds up to 14 players on scholarship. The Division I limit is 13.

These are Auburn’s options: a verbal commitment backs out; a commitment grayshirts, delaying his recruitment for the class of 2014; a current player transfers; or the coaching staff removes a current player’s scholarship, since technically all NCAA scholarships are valid for one season (it’s allowed but unlikely, since the vast majority of 1-year arrangements are renewed each season.)

None of the six newcomers boast higher than a three-star rating via Scout.com, Rivals.com and 247Sports.com recruiting lists.

The Tigers graduated four scholarship players this past year – guards Frankie Wallace, Josh Wallace and Noel Johnson, and forward Rob Chubb.

Guard Chris Denson, forward Allen Payne and center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum will be in their final year of eligibility next winter, in head coach Tony Barbee’s fourth season.

Athletic director Jay Jacobs released a statement March 15 confirming Barbee would be back, despite his 35-59 three-year record and guiding the Tigers to a tie for the most losses in SEC single-season history.

“My expectation is for our program to show significant improvement under Coach Barbee’s leadership,” Jacobs wrote. “Coach Barbee and I will continue to work together to support our basketball program at the highest level so we can give our fans the kind of program they expect and deserve.”

Departures from the program have plagued Barbee’s three seasons, ranging from players transferring elsewhere to signees failing to qualify academically.

In the locker room following Auburn’s SEC Tournament opening-round loss to Texas A&M in Nashville on March 13, the younger players just completing their freshman year were united in vowing to return.

“I’m pretty sure this whole group will stick together,” then-freshman point guard Brian Greene Jr. said. “We’ve got a brotherhood that can’t be broken.”

Added fellow rookie Shaq Johnson, who started 21 games at small forward: “Oh no, no. I’m at Auburn. I’m here. I like Auburn, so I’m not going anywhere.”

Barbee routinely arranged his weekly schedule around recruiting trips, and quickly left with an assistant coach to recruit before his postgame media remarks after an 88-55 loss at Ole Miss on Feb. 23.

“With the guys we’ve got coming in,” Barbee said March 13, “I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we’re headed.”

Barbee will next be available to speak with reporters after the signing class is complete, a date yet to be determined.

Signing period closes May 15.

**

Here’s the prospective list of Auburn’s 2013-14 roster, broken down by position:

Point guard: Brian Greene Jr. (soph.), Tajh Shamsid-Deen (signed in November)

Shooting guard: Chris Denson (sr.), KT Harrell (jr.), Jordan Price (soph.)

Small forward: Allen Payne (sr.), Shaquille Johnson (soph.), Dion Wade (verbal commit), Chris Griffin (junior college verbal commit)

Power forward: Jordon Granger (soph.), Matthew Atewe (verbal commit)

Center: Asauhn Dixon-Tatum (sr.), Benas Griciunas (signed in November), Ronald Delph (signed in November)

March 30, 2013

All good things come to an end: Auburn doused by Drexel 56-43 in WNIT quarterfinals

30Aburn31BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – As early as the layup line following halftime, and ascending during her team’s customary win-or-lose postgame salute with the pep band and student section, Blanche Alverson couldn’t control her emotions.

The tears started flowing and never stopped as the 126th game of Alverson’s career didn’t end the way she or the Auburn women’s basketball team had hoped – their dreams of a WNIT championship slayed by the Drexel Dragons 56-43 Saturday night before 1,421 fans at Auburn Arena.

“It was just tough. It really is,” Alverson said. “You never want to go out with a loss, but we just didn’t play well.”

A splendid run it was for the Tigers (19-15), whose promising start to the season was marred by an 8-game losing streak in conference play, yet salvaged by three heartwarming home victories in the postseason to show their fans a glimpse of their potential on the horizon.

“There’s really no limits for this team,” Alverson said. “They have another year of experience in this system. There’s nothing but positive things to say about the future of this program.”

Sadly for Alverson and Najat Ouardad, Auburn’s two senior starters, they won’t be a part of that future chase for an NCAA tournament bid. They’ll settle for a WNIT quarterfinal finish and, in Alverson’s case, four years of memories.

“It definitely gives the ones returning confidence,” first-year coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “Our seniors should be very proud of themselves. They wanted to be better than they were last year.”

After Alverson’s 3-pointer just 17 seconds after tip, and another Alverson 3-ball to cut Drexel’s early lead to 13-11 with 11 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first half, the Dragons caught fire and the Tigers went ice-cold. Drexel’s 17-1 run closed the period, sustained by 15 missed field-goal attempts by the home team.

A quick 6-0 run in the first 2:12 of the second half gave Auburn hope, but Drexel responded with its own run to keep control.

Junior guard Tyrese Tanner (16 points, 6 rebounds) and Alverson’s 15 points weren’t supplemented with much offense elsewhere. Leading scorer Hasina Muhammad was 2-for-13 from the floor, and the Tigers shot 27 percent overall, plus 6-for-17 at the free-throw line.

Drexel senior Hollie Mershon led the way with 19 points and 13 rebounds, helping her Dragons (26-10) advance to the WNIT semifinals against Florida.

Junior center Peyton Davis played just 12 minutes, giving way to reserve forward Cabriana Capers. The Auburn bench hit just one of 14 field-goal tries.

Alverson finishes with the following Auburn women’s basketball career statistics and ranks: 126 games played (ninth), 213 3-pointers and 618 3-point tries (both are second), 34.5 3-point shooting percentage (eighth), 1,244 points (18th) and 602 rebounds (19th). She’s one of 10 Auburn players to complete her career in the top 30 for scoring, rebounds and assists.

She’ll be competing in the women’s 3-point shooting challenge in Atlanta this Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

Seated next to Tanner (who averaged a school-record 23.5 points in four WNIT games this season) at the postgame podium, Alverson had one last challenge to her younger, returning teammates.

“I’ve got high expectations for you,” Alverson said with a smile. “Don’t let me down.”

Matthew Atewe maxes out Auburn’s list of returning scholarship players, incoming commitments

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. – Barring any changes of heart or departures from the program, Auburn head coach Tony Barbee has his 2013-14 men’s basketball roster set in place.

3-star power forward Matthew Atewe of Notre Dame (Mass.) verbally committed to Auburn over Nebraska, Charlotte and Nevada on Saturday, first reported by AuburnSports.com.

Eight scholarship players are scheduled to return from last year’s 9-23 outfit – including four in their final year of eligibility – and the younger players have sworn they will return to the Tigers rather than transfer, as some players have done in the recent past.

Three have already inked their national letter of intent in early signing period, and two others are set to officially commit in April.

Here’s the breakdown of Auburn’s expected 13 scholarship players in 2013-14, with their year of eligibility or recruiting status:

Point guard: Brian Greene Jr. (soph.), Tajh Shamsid-Deen (signed in November)

Shooting guard: Chris Denson (sr.), KT Harrell (jr.), Jordan Price (soph.)

Small forward: Allen Payne (sr.), Shaquille Johnson (soph.), Dion Wade (verbal commit)

Power forward: Jordon Granger (soph.), Matthew Atewe (verbal commit)

Center: Asauhn Dixon-Tatum (sr.), Benas Griciunas (signed in November), Ronald Delph (signed in November)

“You can’t help but think, what’s next?” Auburn women dreaming of another WNIT title

Tyrese Tanner

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – Three down, three to go.

Of course, the Auburn women’s basketball team has more work to do, and a tricky WNIT quarterfinal matchup beckons with Drexel at Auburn Arena, Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

But since none of their three WNIT home victories has been particularly difficult, it’s natural for the Tigers (19-14) to channel their inner 8-year-old – gazing at the clouds, dreaming of what’s yet to come.

“I just want us to keep winning and for us to get a championship,” said an exuberant Tyrese Tanner Wednesday after beating Tulane in the Round of 16. “I feel that we’re pretty focused for these next games.”

Games, not game, she said. Plural. The confidence isn’t necessarily displaced; no other WNIT quarterfinalist has won all its games comfortably by double digits, and this being the 10-year anniversary of Auburn’s 2003 WNIT championship, there’s a special feeling about this run.

“Everyone has the drive and the hunger to get this championship,” Tanner concluded.

Obviously, first-year head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy was asked how she felt about her players looking ahead. Obviously, she winced, believing only the next opponent should be on their minds.

“But it’s an exciting time for them,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Of course, they always see the bigger picture. They have to figure out how to get there, but for this team (because) they’re playing so well right now, they’re hungry. They feel it.

“You can’t help but think, ‘what’s next?’”

What’s next is Drexel (25-10), which has a prolific scorer in Hollie Mershon (19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) and plenty of complementary parts.

“Drexel is a tough matchup in trying to defend their motion offense,” Williams-Flournoy said. “They spread you out extremely far. It’s the quarterfinals and a great place to be, so our kids just have to get ready and play.”

Tanner’s been on fire the entire postseason, averaging 26 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 steals and 2.7 blocks in three outstanding games.

The junior guard’s credence has rubbed off on equally hungry teammates.

“We want our last game to be a win. Not many people can say that,” senior leader Blanche Alverson said. “That’s my goal. I want to play my last college game and I want it to be a win.”

The winner will face either Florida or James Madison, another SEC vs. Colonial Athletic Association matchup, in the semifinals.

General admission tickets are still available for $7, while reserved seating costs $10. The game can be viewed on AuburnTigers.com.

March 27, 2013

Ouardad’s clutch 3-pointer, Tanner’s double-double send Auburn women to WNIT quarters

NIT Tulane Auburn Basketball

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – Entrenched in prolonged shooting slumps, Najat Ouardad and Blanche Alverson picked the most impeccable of moments to receive the weirdest of lucky bounces.

If anything could overshadow junior guard Tyrese Tanner’s sustained dominance continuing to lift Auburn, it was a couple of big-time clutch shots from two proud seniors. Without them, the Tigers might not have survived their WNIT Round of 16 victory Wednesday, 72-52 over Tulane – and it was harder than the score appears.

The Green Wave nearly erased a 44-29 deficit with a 15-4 run, causing Auburn (19-14) to call timeout with 6 minutes, 48 seconds remaining – something coach Terri Williams-Flournoy has rarely done this postseason run.

“I didn’t think we were being smart,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We weren’t taking care of the ball, we weren’t rebounding. We were giving them every opportunity to get back into the game.”

The pace of play had grown sloppy in the second half, and with it Auburn’s passing and post defense. The Tigers needed a bucket, badly.

So they turned to … Ouardad? The 5-foot-1 point guard, a 29 percent 3-point shooter, who hadn’t made any of her last 10 field-goal attempts spanning 82 minutes of basketball?

Ouardad had no choice and no doubt, throwing up a rainbow with an expiring shot clock. Nothing but net – the 3-ball the first bucket of hers since very early in the second half against UAB … two games ago.

“I was already ready to knock it down, because I knew it would make a big difference so we could get the momentum back,” Ouardad said. “I’m always looking at the shot clock – as the point guard, I have to know that.”

Instantly, the energy in the building was recharged. The 1,391 fans in Auburn Arena were even louder two possessions later, when Alverson, similarly struggling through a 10-for-32 slump, threw up a 3-point try.

It circled around the rim before tapping the glass and falling good, followed by a dumbfounded facial expression for Alverson.

And just like that, the lead was back to 10, and the Green Wave (24-9) couldn’t muster another run.

“That took a little bit of the air out of our sails,” Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said. “You’ve got to pick the players you’re going to guard. I think when it comes to outside shooting, you have to find Alverson, and let somebody else beat you. And (Ouardad) did.”

Tanner’s beast mode button hasn’t turned off all postseason. This was her first career double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds, her career high on the boards.

She only scored 20-plus points in three regular season games. Tanner’s put up 29, 24 and 25 in three playoff victories, in the process becoming Auburn’s all-time leader in scoring, field goals, free throws, blocks and steals during her WNIT career.

“It’s amazing – I don’t know what has come over Tyrese, but I hope it stays with her throughout the rest of the NIT and into her senior year,” Williams-Flournoy said. “She’s playing with a lot of confidence, and her teammates are feeding off of her.”

Maybe it’s bravado, maybe it’s supreme belief in the way she’s playing – but Tyrese Tanner was the first to broach that 12-letter word that starts with ‘C’.

Three down, three to go.

“I just want us to keep winning, and for us to get to the championship,” Tanner said. “I feel like we’re pretty focused for these next games to come. Everyone has the drive and the hunger to get this championship.”

THREE-POINTERS

- Auburn awaits its opponent in the quarterfinals to be played this weekend or Monday night. Drexel and Bowling Green face off Thursday; the winner, either way, will be 25-10. Location will be determined when the matchup is.

- This 2012-13 Auburn squad has set a school record with 396 steals, and ranks second all-time in turnovers forced for the program.

- Making it a little sweeter for Tyrese Tanner: the Tigers’ No. 2-leading scorer and rebounder was her sister. Tra’cee Tanner’s 12 points and seven boards was her best output in 18 games.

NIT Tulane Auburn Basketball