Head coach Johnnie Harris during the exhibition game between the Tuskegee Golden Tigers at Neville Arena in Auburn on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
BY DANIEL LOCKE
FOR THE OBSERVER
The Auburn University Women’s basketball team fell, 63-47, to the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament last week, sealing the envelope on the Tigers’ 2022-23 season. However, the program is headed toward greener pastures as Auburn posted its first winning record since the 2018-19 season. There is still work to do, but head coach Johnnie Harris has things moving in the right direction.
“I want to work on being tougher,” Harris said following the season-ending loss. “I feel like overall this season we were probably where we was projected, not where we wanted to be, not where we felt like we could have been.”
Junior Aicha Coulibaly (AC) led Auburn in scoring this season, averaging 16.3 points per game. Senior Honesty Scott-Grayson followed closely, averaging 13 points per game. Coulibaly also led the Tigers in assists, averaging 2.6 per game. Freshman Sydney Shaw averaged 2.3 assists per game and led the team in total assists with 68. Coulibaly also made the biggest difference for the Tigers on the glass, averaging 6.4 rebounds per game, grabbing 148 total. And junior forward Romi Levy also played an integral role in Harris’s rotations this season.
“We started the SEC season with Honesty missing three games, then AC missed,” Harris said. “So you have two of your top-two scorers missing six games. Then you have Romi who was in the starting lineup missing three games, and those are our veterans.
“We had key players miss games, but what it did was help our younger players to grow up. They had to grow up fast. It’s hard for young kids in the SEC when you don’t have an Honesty who would usually calm them down and keep everybody — or you don’t have an AC to whom they can go to get a bucket or get a stop, or she is in the huddle trying to get them riled up. But I did feel like they grew up a little bit.”
Overcoming adversity was the key to Auburn’s season. From constant injuries to players having trouble getting back after Christmas due to airline difficulties, the Tigers had to work through more than their share of tough breaks. Despite the negative circumstances, Auburn put together a winning season. And the improvement has been consistent since Harris took over the program.
In the 2020-21 season, the year before Harris took over, Auburn posted five wins total, none of them being SEC wins. The 2021-22 season saw the Tigers win 10 games, two of them being conference wins. This season saw the Tigers pick up 15 wins total, five SEC wins and a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. As the team’s young core continues to grow and develop, and more talent is brought in, big things could be on the horizon.
“I do want to work on being tougher,” Harris said. “We’re going to definitely work on shooting a lot in the off-season. Getting tougher. We will get some help in here. We have some players coming in that we felt like will help us get over the hump. We will be able to take them overseas in August and hopefully that will prepare us for next year. We plan on coming in here next year being a different ball club.”
For Harris, better known as “Coach J,” and the rest of the Auburn Tigers women’s basketball program, next season cannot come soon enough.