May 1, 1997
(Editor's note--before the tournament season began, Inside Tulane visited with the six seniors who have led the men's and women's basketball teams.) "Great friendships" In a warm weekday afternoon in early March, the floor fans in the corners of Fogelman Arena churned the muggy air. Coach Perry Clark and his assistants shouted instructions while young men lined up along the basketball court's baseline to run sprints from one end to the other.
For the four senior players on the Green Wave men's team, this all-too-familiar routine of afternoon basketball practice was taking on new meaning. Come April, no matter their fortunes in postseason tournaments, these players would no longer have to endure the thick air of the arena that has been their team home for four years. Perhaps their somber looks reflected anticipation of the conference games ahead. Or, perhaps it was knowing the life changes they would soon be facing.
Correy Childs, a guard from Benton Harbor, Mich., sat on the bleachers, an ice bag planted on his left knee. "It's a day-to-day thing," he said of the injury, regret in his voice. The seriousness of the knee problem was to keep him out of the remainder of Tulane's games and end an outstanding career. The loss of Childs carved deep into the team's court presence and the Green Wave lost its first game of the Conference USA tournament, 74-70, to the University of Alabama at Birmingham on March 6.
That loss left the team 20-10 and squelched an opportunity for an NCAA tournament bid. During practice that day in March, however, Childs reflected warmly on the campus that has been his home for the past four years. "The most important thing that I'll miss is the guys I came here and grew up with," the social science major said of his fellow seniors--Chris Cameron, Rayshard Allen and Jerald Honeycutt. "We know each other, we know how we like the ball. We trust each other's ability. It's a special kind of chemistry."
Cameron, who teamed with Childs at the other guard spot, added, "It's hard to leave this," looking around Fogelman Arena with a smile. "There are so many experiences here; the fans are so crazy; it's so hot. I'll never play in a gym like this again." The Albany, Ga., native, also a social science major, remembered well his arrival on campus as a "wild freshman, full of energy." He went on to score 985 points in his career, averaging 11.8 points per game this season, and ranking seventh in steals on Tulane's career list with 160. He will miss his fellow team members and especially his closest friends, the other seniors. "We'll always keep each other in our hearts and remain friends," he vowed.
His teammate Allen is ending a stellar career for the Wave. The Marrero native from John Ehret High School, a forward, averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds this season, missing the entire fall when he sat out due to injuries and academic concerns. But Allen rebounded into the lineup in January with the kind of earnest play that made him a crowd favorite. He is seventh on Tulane's career scoring list with 1,505 points and was the first player in Tulane men's basketball history to achieve a "triple-double": 18 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists against Lafayette. He also ended his career as Tulane's all-time leader in field goal percentage with 57.3 percent from the field.
Allen's best memory of the past four years? "It was the NCAA tournament when I was a sophomore, against Kentucky. I had watched the NCAAs as a kid and when I stepped on the floor, it was like a dream came true," he said. Leaving the Tulane team that brought him such experiences will not be easy: "We've developed great friendships. It will be hard to see us graduate and go our separate ways. But life goes on."
For Honeycutt, the last four years have led to record-setting numbers in almost every personal category. Tulane's all-time leading scorer with 2,209 career points. Career leader in assists with 419. All-time leader in three-point goals with 193. He remembered well his initial steps onto the Fogelman floor as a freshman from Grambling, La. "When I got here as a freshman I was cocky," he said with the grin that is so familiar to the fans who have regularly jammed into Fogelman. "I felt the whole world revolved around Jerald Honeycutt's basketball skills. Now, I've learned to think of the game as passing and rebounds as well as scoring. And it's made me a better player, a more complete player."
Coach Clark reflected on his four seniors with warmth and affection. "The biggest thing about this group is that I've never had a group that has grown up like this one has. They've handled adversity, success, expectations and failures. "It made them tougher, made them work harder. I'm really proud of the way they've done that." "The main focus" It sits on a corner of the scorer's table in Fogelman Arena, a glass-and-wood object with a basketball net draped crazily over one corner.
The Conference USA championship trophy has come home to Tulane for the first time, along with the net from one of the tournament goals. The women's basketball team earned both with finesse and power, along with an incredible 27-5 record. Coach Lisa Stockton's two senior players--Mary Ann Marino and Mary Lowry--shared a major role in helping bring that trophy home to New Orleans. "This has been everything you want a senior season to be, and all you'd want a senior year to be," Stockton said before her team's practice session, just days prior to leaving for the Green Wave's third-straight appearance in the NCAA tournament [see sidebar].
Both Marino and Lowry are fifth-year seniors, with Lowry sitting out a year after transferring to Tulane from Baylor after her sophomore year there, and Marino missing a year due to a knee injury. Both women were named to Tulane Athletics' 3.0 Club for the fall semester, earning at least a 3.0 grade-point average.
Marino already has her bachelor's degree in sociology and is now enrolled in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, studying nutrition. But she is as serious about her love of basketball as she is about academics. "As long as I can remember, basketball has been the main focus of my life," she said. "It's really important to me, and it's well worth it all, all the hard work, injuries, disappointments."
She is proudest of the new and hard-won profile of the Green Wave women's team, which was struggling to have a winning season when she entered the program. "To know I was part of something, to know I contributed a pretty good amount to turning the program around...it was well worth it," Marino said.
Marino, a forward from Metairie, ended her career averaging 9.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, making the Conference USA All-Tournament team. A native of Bossier City, La., Lowry ended her senior season with an exclamation point, scoring the final two points at the free-throw line to lead the Wave to a 76-74 victory over Louisville in the second game of the Conference USA tournament. Reflecting on that moment at the free-throw line, with the game tied and only seconds remaining, Lowry remembered being absolutely calm. "I wanted it, the play in my hands," she said. "I wanted to contribute. I play best under pressure."
Lowry scored 21 points in that game and 16 points in the final blow-out victory over Marquette to bring home the conference trophy. She also was named most valuable player of the tournament. She is proud of the bench strength of the Tulane team that supports the front-line players and has been a key to the winning season. "It makes us stand out," Lowry said. "If one person is having an off night, there are 11 others to step up and take care of business."
Business may be in the future for the sport management major, who is interested in working with one of the professional women's basketball leagues or owning a sports bar and grill one day. In the immediate future, however, Lowry--as well as Marino--would like to find an opportunity to continue to play basketball after graduation.
While the Conference USA championship has left them eager for more, Stockton praised the two seniors for their accomplishments during a year of fierce competition. "Their No. 1 goal was to have a successful season for the team, and they helped set the tone for this team," the coach said.
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