Ciampi optimistic about season
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Auburn coach Joe Ciampi doesn't sound like a coach who lost four starters and 53 points in production.
"I think we have the potential to be a much better team," Ciampi said. "We are young, but the chemistry is already showing on this team, and they are ready to play."
Point guard Carol Smith is the lone returning starter. She was third on the team in scoring (12.3 points per game) and steals and second in assists.
One reason Ciampi believes his team should improve from last season's 17-12 struggle is the return of sophomore forward Le'Coe Willingham. Willingham, an All-Southeastern Conference performer two years ago, sat out last season for personal reasons.
"Le'Coe Willingham is going to be our go-to player," Ciampi said. "She brings a lot of maturity to the team after sitting out one year.
"She gives us the experience and the ability to excel in taking the ball to the basket," he said.
The Tigers will be hoping she can duplicate her freshman performance of 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.
They lost 52.6 points and 23.4 rebounds from a team that averaged just 70 points and 43 boards.
Besides Smith, the only other returnees at guard are reserves Nancy Derrick and Mollie Smith. Ciampi also signed three backcourt players, including Nicole Louden, who averaged 29.4 points last season for Kennedy High School in Peterson, N.J.
The key will be Carol Smith, however.
"I'm asking her to be a leader even though this is only her second year," Ciampi said. "I want her to give us leadership offensively because she's a great scorer at times. But her first and most important goal will be creating plays for the team."
Ciampi has a bigger corps of returnees in the post. Brandi Hillman, a 6-foot-1 forward, averaged five points and six rebounds last season.
Junior college transfers Kerdu Arbet, who stands 6-2, and the 6-4 Chrispine Correira also could make an impact. Both transferred from Palm Beach Community College.
Ciampi likes Arbet's shooting and passing and Correira's size and inside presence.