Jayden Buckley

Auburn High point guard Jayden Buckley brings the ball up the court

After a 20-4 season that ended in a trip to the final four, Chris Brandt’s Auburn High boys’ basketball team has gotten off to a solid start for the 2021-2022 season. 

The Tigers are 3-1 to start the year, and are participating in the Spartan Turkey Jam, a tournament in Birmingham featuring the likes of Mountain Brook, Spanish Fort, Oak Mountain and Clay-Chalkville.

“I didn’t realize it was going to be as stacked,” Brandt said. “It’s a monstrous tournament that I wish I could have a full team, but we’ll just see what happens. Win, lose or draw, we’re going to go and be competitive and learn from our wins or our failures.”

Brandt’s team has gone through quite a bit of turnover from last season. The Tigers lost 11 seniors last year, and having a 16-man roster last season was both a "blessing and a curse," according to the third-year head coach. 

“I actually put 16 on the roster last year because of Covid,” Brandt said. “I usually keep 13 or 14, but you never knew who was going to get sick or who was going to have to quarantine.”

Now with a roster that has a limited amount of playing time, Brandt is putting together his team by those who have been with him the longest first. That will get a boost with the end of football season, as there are six Tigers who play both sports.

“It all starts back over whenever football gets done, because I have six players that play football,” Brandt said. “Then I got to start teaching those guys the system that we’re running this year. I feel like we’ll have a pretty good team when it’s all said and done.”

Brandt has two players who have been starting for the Tigers since their sophomore years in guard Jayden Buckley and power forward Caden Brown. The 6-foot-6 Brown is currently out with a hand injury, but will be a big addition to his team once he is able to return in December.

“These first three games, it’s really only been Jayden Buckley to have experience,” Brandt said. “He’s done a great job; he leads us in scoring. He plays a huge, huge role in our system.”

The biggest change the team went through in the offseason was its offensive philosophy. Unlike last year, this year’s Auburn High team lives and dies by the three more. 

“It's a different type of team as far as their skill-set,” Brandt said. “This team is very good at shooting. We're living and dying more by the three this year where the other team was very explosive, taking the ball to the hole.”

Brandt credits the basketball program in preparing its players to be able to perform successfully and not overwhelm its athletes. So, even though the Tigers face a lack of experience with playing time, look for them to be able to overcome that early in the season.

“We do a very good job in our program from seventh to 12th to try to prepare them at each level,” Brandt said. “Teach a little bit more, a little bit more, and a little bit more each year so they're not totally freaked out by what's happening.”

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