Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What's going on with comings and goings?

AUBURN -- In two days, we saw Jeff Lebo issue a scholarship release to a 7-foot-1 center who averaged two points a game in prep school and accept a transfer from a top-100 recruit.


Great timing for the fifth-year Auburn men's basketball coach, to say the least.

Boubacar Sylla's departure Monday brought the Lebo's-a-loser folks out in force on fan message boards. It even made Lebo supporters, who still seem to have a majority, question their support.

After all, Auburn has seen 13 scholarship players leave the program before their eligibility was up since Lebo was hired in the spring of 2004. Eight were Lebo signess.

Tony Neysmith's transfer from Oklahoma on Tuesday brought the told-you-so Lebo supporters back out.

Some have speculated -- and I will here -- that Neysmith's transfer to Auburn was the other shoe dropping. Sylla's departure cleared a scholarship.

Again, we're talking about the departure of a player who has a great basketball body and the welcoming of a player who has a better body of work ... at least if you believe's prospect rankings.

What's interesting about the Sylla-Neysmith turnabout, however, is that it marks a change. Plenty of players have left the the program. This time, a player transferred in, too?

And, apparently, he's a good player.

In fairness to Lebo, a closer look at outgoing transfers on his watch (see two blog entries below) shows that in most cases, he wasn't to blame. The first five were Cliff Ellis signees, four of which left soon after he was hired. Daniel Hayles and Kelvin Lewis left for family reasons.

Several were light- or non-contributors who left over playing time. Call them recruiting mistakes, if you will. Call them risks Lebo had to take after taking over a long-mediocre program amid new NCAA sanctions four years ago.

We are talking Auburn basketball. It's most recognizable tradition is indifference from the school's fan base. I mean decades of indifference, as evidenced by a long-outdated arena.

Had Auburn fans cared at all, Boom-Eve-Memorial Coliseum would have met its end years ago. Auburn's athletics heads hope to achieve hoops passion through overdue investment, so they're finally building a new arena.

Meanwhile, Lebo prepares to welcome easily his best recruiting class, led by Alabama Mr. Basketball runner-up Frankie Sullivan.

Lebo is also due to get a core of veteran players back next season. That includes former McDonald's All-American forward Korvotney Barber, lost to a broken wrist last season. There's forward Josh Dollard, the top returning scorer and rebounder coming into last season who took a medical redshirt.

Now, Lebo welcomes a reputable transfer just as another player exits.

Could his luck be changing after four years of personnel setbacks and injury woes? Might Auburn fans see a Lebo-era season with something approaching a full scholarship roster?

Will Lebo know what to do with more than a six- or seven-man rotation?

Perhaps that other shoe will finally drop.

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