HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- In years past, it was Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn who would visit Huntsville for his annual Tiger Trek tour. Instead, on Monday, Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl made an appearance at the Space and Rocket Center. Pearl signed autographs and spoke to the hundreds of Tennessee Valley Auburn fans in attendance.
Pearl, who is entering his fourth year at the helm, believes this year's team is the best he's had on the Plains.
"When I try to explain the quality of this team, I talked about this team being better than some of my teams at Tennessee," Pearl said. "Now I had six teams at Tennessee that all went to the NCAA tournament. Now, that's not a knock on any of those teams it's just this is a really talented team."
The Tigers are coming off the program's first winning season since 2008. This team does not have a single senior on the roster but does return a majority of last year's starting lineup including all four leading scorers.
The Tigers have already started practice for the 2017-2018 season. Because Pearl is taking the team overseas in August for a tournament in Italy, they are granted the 10 summer practices. Pearl says the experience of an international trip is valuable for the players both on and off the court.
"We visit hospitals, we go to concentrate camps, we look at historic sites. We study. Day of the game, we'll be doing things because it's more important they get this experience. Then they will also try to represent Auburn. That whole bonding that takes place with a team as you travel and go overseas...those building of those memories and things like that and doing that together..that helps build teams."