Auburn already thinking about next season
Posted: Friday March 19, 1999 09:22 PM
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Its dream season over, there's only one thing left for Auburn to do -- start thinking about next year.
And yes, Chris Porter will come back for his senior season.
"I told everybody from day one I'd be here next year so I'm a little tired of people not believing me," Porter said Friday moments after stepping off the plane in Auburn. "We have a young team that managed to do a lot this year. I plan on helping us finish the job next year."
Porter, Auburn's leading scorer and rebounder and a second-team All-American this year, is one of four starters who will return from the team that won a school record 29 games and its first Southeastern Conference regular season title since 1960.
"If you think we had high expectations this year, wait until you see us next year," Porter said.
Auburn, the No. 1 seed in the South, ended its season Thursday with a 72-64 loss to Ohio State in the regional semifinals. It was an early end to the Tigers' dream season and many players had a hard time believing the run was over.
"We feel like the season ended too quickly, but that's life," sophomore guard Scott Pohlman said. "The ball bounced our way all season and unfortunately it bounced the other way on the wrong night."
The Tigers arrived in Auburn on Friday afternoon with little fanfare, but didn't mind. More than a thousand Auburn fans had lined up at the team hotel in Knoxville, Tenn., on Thursday night and made a miniature "Tiger Walk" for the team to go through. Auburn football fans traditionally make a gauntlet for the players to walk through before every home game.
After busing back to campus, the Tigers had one final team meeting before taking off for spring break.
"We'll say goodbye to our two seniors, take a few weeks off, then start working all summer," freshman David Hamilton said.
Hamilton is just one reason the Tigers are already looking ahead. The 6-foot-9 center/forward broke his right fibula in a Christmas Eve pick-up game and played only one minute in the postseason, against Alabama in the SEC tournament. He had been the Tigers' top reserve before the injury and averaged 18 minutes.
Auburn thought they'd have him back for the NCAA tournament, but Hamilton's mother died before it started and he left the team for several days to attend the funeral. He did not dress against Ohio State.
"My mind wasn't focused and I feel bad now because I believe I could have made a difference," Hamilton said.
Hamilton is a candidate to replace senior forward Bryant Smith in the lineup next year, or even challenge Mamadou N'diaye for the starting center spot. N'diaye, a junior, is already Auburn's career leader in blocked shots.
The Tigers also return Pohlman, a shooting guard who led the team in 3-pointers, and point guard Doc Robinson, an honorable mention All-American. Every reserve except senior Adrian Chilliest will also be back.
"We'll have a strong nucleus back next year," Pohlman said. "I hate to already be talking about it, but we'll all be back."
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.