November 16, 2003
Ross Hurwitz, staff writer
With the start of the men's 2003-2004 basketball regular season just over a week away, Tulane fans are hoping for another successful year. Head Coach Shawn Finney has produced improved records in each of his first three seasons at Tulane, including a 16-15 mark last year and victories in the C-USA tournament the last two years.
In order for the Green Wave to continue this positive trend, they will need to do so without five seniors from the previous season, including four starters. Forwards Brandon Brown and Nick Sinville and guards Waitari Marsh, Brandon Spann and Byron Parker were all intricate components to the winning squad last season. Brown, Marsh and Spann were the team's leading scorers and were often called upon in the decisive moments of games.
These players' graduation is forcing other players to step up and be leaders on and off the court, especially if the Green Wave wishes to compile another winning record. "I think you can classify this as a rebuilding year, anytime you lose five seniors you can classify it as a rebuilding year," Finney said. "I feel like we have the right pieces this season though. Can we win 20 games? Absolutely, but we're going to have to go out and play well together and we're going to have to do the right things."
Senior guard/forward Wayne Tinsley will be the first player called upon by Coach Finney to lead this team. Tinsley is a four-year starter and has been one of the Green Wave's best all-around players in his time here. Tinsley filled up the stat sheet game in and game out last season shooting 53.7 percent from the field, although he will need to increase his scoring this year to compensate for the loss of last year's seniors.
Because of his defensive prowess, he also usually guards the opposing teams' best players. His experience is invaluable to this young team. "Wayne has been a leader in some ways since he has been here," Finney said. "He brings a lot of emotion and desire to the court; he will do whatever it takes to win. What we need this year is for Wayne to lead by example in all ways. We still need his effort on the court, but we need him to help the young guys and do the right things, be early for practice, continue to do extra work, take care of business in the classroom, all the things that we need to become part of the mentality of the team. With all of the young guys, you need to foster that atmosphere from the start."
Tinsley will not be the only leader on this team. Senior Ivan Pjevcevic emerged last season as a considerable scoring option and will be needed again as a central point of this offense. His seven-foot stature combined with a pure shooting touch from the outside creates a dangerous match up problem for other teams.
"Ivan Pjevcevic showed he can really shoot the ball last year, but he will also be a factor inside just based on his size," Finney said. "I'm excited about our seniors, when you look at Wayne and Ivan, they're going to be the key to this basketball team for the upcoming season. I'm expecting them to really lead the way."
Tinsley and Pjevcevic will be crucial to winning, but the supporting cast will need to provide substantial help as well. The starting lineup is unclear as of now, but junior guard Marcus Kinzer and sophomore forward Quincy Davis are two players that will need to elevate their games to the next level if this team is going to have success.
"Marcus Kinzer is a true-point guard who looks to set up the offense first, which is something we have not really had before. The big thing is that he will set things up for our shooters by penetrating and dishing back out. Quincy really came on strong at the end of last season; showing he could defend and rebound. For the first time since I have been here, we will have a shot-blocker in the back. I think he will be a major difference for us; he has the ability to alter games with his length and athleticism," Finney said.
Sophomore forward Vytautas Tatarunas and senior center George Brown will be competing with Kinzer and Davis for spots in the starting rotation. Brown's height and experience can be valuable assets to this team and with one year under his belt, Tatarunas will see a significant increase in minutes. It is rare for freshmen to receive much playing time, but this year's recruiting class was ranked as high as No. 29 in the country, according to the athletics department. The talent of the incoming freshman combined with the loss of so many players will result in freshman playing important minutes.
"We had our best recruiting class last year. I'm expecting three of the freshmen to step in and play a lot of minutes and I've seen major improvement from all five of them," Finney said. "[6-3 guard] Vincent Camper is just a powerful guard that can post up. He physically is ready to play in this league. When you look at [6-8 forward] Kory Castine, you're looking at a young man who is now 253 [pounds]. He is going to be a stout man. That's what makes me feel so excited about this team is that I think we have the right blend of talent, the right blend of personality, and we're going to be a team."
Overall, Finney and the Tulane squad seem ready and eager to compete this season. The schedule this year contains 18 games in New Orleans and more games within the state of Louisiana than ever before. The regular season tips off Nov. 25 at Fogelman Arena versus the Southern Jaguars.
The non-conference schedule is highlighted by the team's trip to LSU where the Green Wave will face the Tigers for the first time in Baton Rouge since 1982. The C-USA schedule starts Jan. 7 when Cincinnati visits Fogelman. Memphis will also play at Fogelman this season.
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