Men’s basketball makes strong start to 2017-18 season

Courtesy+of+Parker+Waters

Parker_Waters

Courtesy of Parker Waters

Tulane’s men’s basketball team is off to a hot start this season. After winning only six games last year, the revitalized Green Wave has rolled to a 6-1 record, including high quality wins over Colorado State and Miami University of Ohio.

Led by upperclassmen Cameron Reynolds and Melvin Frazier, the team’s fast-paced play and three-point sharpshooting have made it dangerous on offense. So much so, in fact, that Frazier became the first Tulanian to be named the American Athletic Conference’s player of the week after averaging 23.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

The Wave’s wins haven’t only been because of the team’s strong offense. Senior forward Cameron Reynolds credits a renewed attention to defense as the team’s biggest change.

“I think a lot of guys, including myself, really focus on defense more,” Reynolds said. “We gave up some bad percentages last year, so we’ve really hit home on our defensive principles.”

Two overseas trips have allowed players to develop both on and off the court. Over the summer, the team spent 10 days in Spain, where it was victorious in all four games it played. In the middle of November, the Green Wave picked up a pair in Jamaica, and men’s basketball coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. said he couldn’t be happier with his team.

“I mean, on a scale of one to 10, I would say they were about a 12,” Dunleavy Sr. said. “I thought that the trip to Spain, for obvious reasons, with virtually six new players, was great for chemistry, and you get ten extra practices, so that’s very helpful. Besides that, the cultural opportunity is something the guys really embraced, which was terrific. Jamaica was really more business, taking care of business. We did that. We came out and played really well in both games.”

The team is still far from perfect. In its first true road game of the season against Georgia State, Tulane was outscored 22-2 off turnovers and held to just 31 percent shooting from the field. Weak performances from the Wave’s starting five held the team back, but despite the loss, Vanderbilt transfer Samir Sehic managed to put together a good game off the bench, scoring 20 points and corralling six offensive rebounds.

“Guys were able to find me,” Sehic said. “They played a zone so really just playing physical down low and being able to get some points off the boards offensively, and then the players were able to find me on the perimeter to get me going early.”

NCAA rules mandate that transfers sit out for a season after switching schools, rules with which Sehic and UNLV transfer Jordan Cornish are all too familiar.

“Oh, it was very tough, probably the hardest year of my life because something you worked for your whole life has been taken away from you,” Sehic said. “What I think it did for me, and speaking for JC [Jordan Cornish], it put a chip on our shoulder to come in this year and prove a statement, first as a team and second, individually. We feel like we have a lot to prove, as a team … so we’re just trying to do what we can, and it’s an amazing feeling to be back on the court.”

The upcoming slate of games gets tough quickly, with a Dec. 3 road game against the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels. No. 13 UNC has the making of an elite team equipped with depth, experience and size. Despite the obvious challenge, Dunleavy Sr. doesn’t want to mess with his winning formula.

“We do everything the same,” Dunleavy Sr. said. “We prepare for every team we play the same way. We try to force them to do things that aren’t their strengths, and hopefully we can do that.”

When asked if he sees any areas of weakness on the Tar Heel team, Dunleavy Sr. replied with an honest “no.”

With conference play right around the corner, the team needs its fans more than ever. Currently unbeaten at Avron B. Fogelman Arena in Devlin Fieldhouse, the Green Wave thrives when the stands are full.

“The crowd changes us tremendously, just because it brings us energy and gives us homecourt advantage, and like every team in the country, home-court advantage is a plus,” Sehic said.

Asked if he had any message to his fellow Tulane students, Reynolds laughed and said with a smile, “Come out and support us. You’ll like what you see.”