Traditions usually reserved for Auburn football have now become the rage for the school's surprising basketball team. The trees at Toomer's Corner have been toilet-papered after victories. Fans have met the team plane after several games, including the first loss of the season last week at Kentucky.
"I was really happy to see that after we lost," sophomore guard Scott Pohlman said this week. "It shows that they still believe."
So much so that the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum has been sold out six times. Despite the 10-point loss to the Wildcats, the Tigers have turned most skeptics into believers during their 19-1 start. The last two victories, at Alabama last Saturday and at home against Mississippi State Wednesday, came without Chris Porter.
Porter, the junior-college transfer who leads Auburn in points (16.7), rebounds (8.8) and steals (2.2), was suspended last Friday by coach Cliff Ellis for three games for violating unspecified team rules.
Pohlman admitted that the team's play without Porter was a confidence boost.
"You can't win with just one guy at this level of basketball," he said. "When one guy leaves, the others have to step up."
Junior Bryant Smith, who led the Tigers in scoring last season, finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds in a 64-54 win over Mississippi State. While mourning the death of his grandmother, freshman Mack McGadney scored 15 to help Auburn to its first win in Tuscaloosa since the 1983-84 season.
That team, led by Charles Barkley and Chuck Person, is the one the locals compare this year's team to, but it reminds Ellis of one of his Clemson teams.
"It's very similar to the '86-87 team that started 17-0 before losing to Duke and North Carolina," said Ellis, who came to Auburn five years ago. "Chris Porter is a lot like Horace Grant. Doc Robinson is similar to Grayson Marshall. I think the depth of this year's team is better."
Ellis hopes that this year's team goes a little farther in the NCAA tournament than his Clemson team did a dozen years ago.
That team finished 25-6 and lost to Southwest Missouri State in the opening round.
So that's where he is
Call him Shawnta West. Or the Muggsy Bogues of the West Coast Conference. Many in Baltimore who remember Haywood "Beat" Eaddy lost touch with the 5-foot-4 guard when he left Southwestern High four years ago.
After a year at Allegany College and another season at Casper (Wyo.) Junior College, Eaddy wound up going to Loyola Marymount last year when Charles Bradley left Division II Metro State in Denver for his first Division I head coaching job.
"One of the first things he told me was that he was from Baltimore," Eaddy said of Bradley, who grew up with his brother Dudley in Edgewood before becoming an all-American at Wyoming.
Eaddy didn't get as much attention as Shawnta Rogers, who was a star at Lake Clifton. After two years in junior college, Eaddy said his two options were Coppin State and Loyola Marymount.
While he wanted to get back home to be close to his now 3-year-old daughter, Destiny, Eaddy went to the Los Angeles school that had fallen out of the spotlight since the on-court death of Hank Gathers during the 1990 WCC tournament.
Eaddy averaged 15.9 points and 4.9 assists last season for the Lions, who finished 7-20 in Bradley's first season. During a 27-point performance against Long Beach State in the opener this season, Eaddy strained ligaments in his ankle and missed six games.
He returned to score a combined 44 points and hand out 18 assists in victories two weeks ago against San Francisco and Santa Clara. He had 22 points in an 89-73 win at San Diego last Thursday and 20 points in an 86-81 loss at St. Mary's on Saturday. The 8-10 Lions will play host to St. Mary's, Calif., tonight.
"I feel good being part of a team that will help bring the program back," said Eaddy, who was named the WCC's Co-Player of the Week last week and is averaging 14 points and 4.8 assists. "A lot of people back home don't know I'm out there. It's out of mind, out of sight."
It was fitting that Texas A&M;'s Chris Clayton hit a 22-foot jumper at the buzzer to beat Baylor, 57-56, last week in Waco. The play that helped break the Aggies' 25-game road losing streak in the Big 12 was called "Victory." Georgia sophomore Jumaine Jones wore the number 5 on his sneakers during Tuesday night's game against Kentucky. It's the jersey number of Jones' high school buddy, Dion Glover, who is out for the season at Georgia Tech after blowing out his knee the first day of practice.
Pub Date: 1/29/99