Auburn point guards bring optimism to season debut

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn coach Tony Barbee calls point guards Tahj Shamsid-Deen and Malcolm Canada his two-headed monster.

Light the torches. Alert the villagers. The two newcomers will have a chance to show how good they are when Auburn tips off its season against Nicholls State at 7 p.m. Friday in Auburn Arena.

Shamsid-Deen, a speedy freshman with a long list of high school accolades; and Canada, a junior college transfer, are hoping to upgrade the position in Barbee's fourth season. So far, so good.

"It is what I thought we would be getting out of these two guys," he said. "The best thing about these guys is they love each other, they need each other, they push each other every day in practice but they are best friends.

"The game gets easier for our team because we have two guys that can run that position at a high level."

Shamsid-Deen was a three-time Atlanta Journal-Constitution Class AAA Player of the Year selection in Georgia. Canada was third-team junior college All-American at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa. He played his high school ball in Texas.

Last year's primary point guard, Josh Wallace, averaged 4.1 points per game. Barbee is looking for a lot more from the position this season. He says Shamsid-Deen can shoot from the outside. He says Canada can drive to the basket and create.

"We have upgraded that position," Barbee said.

Guard Chris Denson says the transition from last year's game to Shamsid-Deen and Canada will be beneficial.

"We really didn't have a scoring point guard. We have that in both Tahj and Malcolm," Denson said. "They can both distribute the ball really well and it just makes it easier for scorers like me."

Shamsid-Deen has made the quick jump from high school to likely the starting point guard position. But he got in work that most rookies didn't. Auburn had 10 bonus practices in August surrounding its two exhibition games in The Bahamas, and returned to win two exhibition games in Auburn Arena in the last two weeks.

Shamsid-Deen said the team has benefitted from being together so long, starting with The Bahamas.

"The chemistry was real good out there and we brought it back to the two exhibition games. We still have stuff to work on, but I think we are off to a great start," he said.

Shamsid-Deen said he doesn't feel any pressure.

"I know what Coach Barbee wants of me and I know what he is asking I am capable of doing: To be the floor general. To be vocal, be a true point guard and put people in spots and when the time presents it be aggressive and look for my shot, too."

Auburn swept through its on-campus exhibition games, beating Victory University 109-67 and Paine College 99-64.

"We can definitely score the ball, but that's not what we really want to focus on," Shamsid-Deen said. "Coach Barbee has made it a big part of us to focus on the defensive end. Anyone can score the ball, but the thing that will separate everyone is stopping (other teams)."

Auburn was 9-23 last year. Nicholls Sate was 9-21.


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