Start-up Slam: Auburn Knights

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) There would not be a top class of the NIC-10 without Auburn and although they are missing some key pieces from last season, the Knights hope this year is no different.

Auburn is coming off of a 17-12 campaign where it failed to win the regional for just the second time in seven years.

While the Knights lose four of their top five scorers, 19th year head coach Bryan Ott says he has a tight-knit and motivated group of players.

Ott, who has guided Auburn to state two times in the last six seasons, believes some tuning up is in order before they open up their schedule next week.

"We have a lot of work to do," said Ott. "We're flying out here and playing hard but we're full of errors right now and they're going to have to be cleaned up between now and then in order to be successful. I feel like we have a lot of kids with a lot of pride and everybody is all together and I don't think there's any selfishness in the group at all. I think we're playing with a chip on our shoulder so I like that but we have a lot to learn and a lot to work on right now."

The Knights were also left in a little bit of shock this past offseason as they watched two of their top five scorers from a year ago pack up their bags and move across town to East and Jefferson.

Now one senior believes its his job to take over.

Yahmir Muhammad leads a Knights team which lost its playoff opener for the first time since 2012.

Just as in years past, Auburn brings to the table a small and quick lineup.

The inexperienced roster will be tested early with three Chicago schools on the slate to start the season.

Ott says his team does not talk about the two exits from the locker room and Muhammad has his eyes solely set on the future.

"I think we have a very compassionate team, a loving team and an understanding team," said Muhammad. "They want to win and because I want to win, they're willing to follow me and they're willing to do whatever it takes. If I'm leading then they're going to follow."

"I think Yahmir takes this all very personally," Ott said. "He's proud of the program and he's confident in his own abilities and he's assumed the mantle of leadership as our captain and as our point guard. We're going to count on him to take those steps and make other people around him better."