Tulane looks for hoops improvement despite loss of two leading scorers

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Tulane men’s basketball improved from six wins to 14 wins last season.

Head coach Mike Dunleavy said at media day that even though the Wave lost Melvin Frazier and Cameron Reynolds, his team will be more balanced this season.

Green Wave sophomore Caleb Daniels, a St. Aug product, says he will improve on his 6.4 points per game average from a year ago. Daniels said he has worked early mornings, and late nights, to lose weight and improve his game.

 

The Tulane men open the regular season November 11th at home against Florida State.

TULANE RELEASE:

Basketball Media Day was streamed live on Facebook and Twitter, and fans can watch Dunleavy’s press conference, as well as interviews with redshirt junior Samir Sehic and sophomore guard Caleb Daniels. To view the press conference and interviews, go to this link.

Dunleavy, redshirt senior guard Jordan Cornish and senior forward Blake Paul will travel to Philadelphia for American Athletic Conference Basketball Media Day on Monday, October 15. Coverage begins on The American Digital Network at 7 a.m. (CT).

Below is a transcript of quotes from third-year head coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr., at the Tulane Basketball Media Day Live event Wednesday afternoon:

On replacing NBA talents Cameron Reynolds and Melvin Frazier, Jr….
“I’ve had opportunities to see them play on TV and they both have had some impressive performances, and both of their teams like them very much. But having said that, it’s still a bunch of scoring, (our) one and two scorers on our team last year that we have to fill in and people still ask the question ‘How are you going to do that?’ And it’s going to be by committee. In the past, we’ve had some guys have some good jumps. My first year Cam Reynolds, went from six points a game to 17 points a game. Melvin [Frazier] in year two last year had about a five or six-point improvement and we have a couple guys on our team this year that could take that that kind of significant jump, but overall, I think from a depth standpoint, we’re going to have a lot more guys, even kind of scoring across the board.”

On what players have made improvements heading into the season…
“Yeah I mean, look first of all two things: One thing you’re going notice about us is Samir [Sehic], from a conditioning standpoint, he’s changed his body around some. He’s probably our most conditioned big man overall as far as running the floor, and that’s saying a lot, because Buay Koka, who you guys haven’t really seen yet, last year ran a 5:38 mile for us in our training camp and runs the floor like a deer. So we feel like we’ve got a couple of big guys, and Blake Paul’s ability to run the floor as well. We feel like our bigs are in a position to really run the floor. I think the mobility that Samir has this year gives him a chance to play against a lot of smaller guys, potentially out on the perimeter, which would be something, because he has the ability to shoot the 3-point shot. Last year, the way he played, field goal percentage-wise for us, he was tremendous. His points per possession numbers were tremendous. So, at the defensive end, I think he’s got the opportunity this year to give us a big jump in that space as well. And then Jordan Cornish, I think again knows how to play. We used him last year in a lot of different roles. He’s a big guard, post-up guard, he runs pick-and-rolls very well, and he has the ability to shoot the three. We’re looking mainly for more consistency from those guys and having a year of play under their belt and another year in the system where they really understand what we’re trying to do and will be that much better at it.”

On redshirt junior forward Samir Sehic…
“That’s the area I was talking about (with) consistency that has to get better. You know he’s got the ability to be a good shooter, and I think you know for a lot of our guys, one of the things that we try to do, we try to push the tempo of the game. We’re trying to get quick scores and get opportunities where we get fouled in the paint where we go to the free throw line because again, the way to get points per possession is to get to the free throw line. You know your 70-percent shooter is 1.4, 80 is percent 1.6, 90 percent is 1.8. Last year for Melvin Frazier, one of the things that made him so attractive to the NBA was he was between 1.3 and 1.4 points per possession in transition, so they got that number, that hit them right between the eyes and said, ‘Wow,’ and you know everything we try to do is try to get him to be in position to go downhill and be able to do what he does best. So the best way for shooters to get shots is to either catch and shoot 3s or, when you’re shooting in rhythm, to not be off the dribble and shooting shots. It’s just math. I’m an NBA guy, so there’s not a spot on the floor NBA-wise that we don’t know what people shoot. That’s as a team, as a whole league, but then it comes down to individuals – what you do and where you do it from. It’s all a part of that so, getting him the right kind of shots for him is a big part of it.”

On how the team improves in 2018-19 and builds on a strong start like last season…
“So again, you know for us, I thought we had a good year last year. Obviously we had a good jump in wins. We had a couple of games where everybody goes through, and it’s the luck of the draw. [Melvin] Frazier was injured for a couple of games, Ray Ona Embo was injured for a couple of games. Last year, at one point, Ray was shooting 42 or 43 percent from the 3-point line, hurt his wrist and wound up missing 10-plus in a row which ultimately took his number down to 37, but I feel like he’ll be over 40 percent as a shooter barring injury. The main thing. Our guys understand that because I tell them all the time, NBA-wise, that nobody’s ever won a championship in the NBA in the last probably 20 plus years if they haven’t been in the top 10 in defense in the league. So, all those years where you saw the Houston Rockets’ or Denver Nuggets’ scoring like a gazillion points a game, well if they weren’t top 10 (defensively), they’ve got no chance. And last year, you saw the Houston Rockets were down, but they’ve got the top five in defense and they were knocking at the door. So again, for us, our point of emphasis all the time is the ability to defend. I feel like with our depth we could have more consistency at the defensive end of the floor. I think we’ll be a better shot-blocking (and) a better rebounding team this year. I think our guys know we have third-year guys that understand what we’re trying to do and how to do it and have been very good at trying to communicate those things to our younger players. That’s the really big part of it, like how long does it take for guys that you think are going to be in your lineup. I think our three freshmen will be in our playing rotation. Our two guys from last year who were redshirts will be in our playing rotation. So how quickly can they get connected to everyone else and communicate what’s trying to be done on the floor?”

On scheduling…
“Obviously, we have a pretty balanced conference schedule. We’ve got a really good conference. I mean again, tough teams where, as you get into it, you know where we are projected for right now. As a coach and with our team, we want to win every single game. That’s the objective. There’s nobody that I don’t think we can’t beat. What it comes down to is execution and playing the way you need to play. For us, we need to have a really good non-conference win-loss record in order to give ourselves the chance to play in the postseason. What it comes down to are the teams in our conference. I think this year, with the depth we have, we have a chance to improve on that. That depends on five guys that’ll be first-time performers, really, at this level, but ultimately, I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen from those guys. When it happens, bottom line is, I think they’re all going be who we thought they would be as players. That’s the good news for any coach when you recruit a player and you get a player in and he plays, and ‘Is he the guy that I thought he was?’ And the answer is yes for all of our guys right now. The only question is, ‘Okay, at what point do they mature and understand and not just get in foul trouble all the time or have mental lapses and make plays that maybe don’t help you as much?’ But overall, we’re really pleased with where we are. By the time we get to conference play (we will need) for that depth to be able to kick in, and if it does, then I think we’re going to have a great season.”

On differences between this year’s roster and last…
“One of the things I would say about our team this year is I think we have way more outside shooting. Whereas last year, we were very dependent on Cam Reynolds to make shots from the outside. We had a big jump from Ray Ona Embo who was shooting the ball well. He had a big improvement from year one to last year. I think maybe he’s like 22 percent to 37 percent from the three-point line. That’s a significant jump. But, I think we have more shooting this year. I think the guys that we have, have potential to be explosive scorers. We’ve had the most improved player (award) in our league for two years in a row. I think that we have a couple candidates this year. Ray Ona Embo has been on the shelf a little bit with some patellar tendinitis. I mean, the way he was playing prior to sitting out some, he was playing extremely well. Caleb Daniels, I think he’s got the ability to have a big jump for us this year. Projecting, I think he will be one of our starters. Last year as a freshman, he shot 85 percent from the free throw line, and he can get there. And he shoots the ball. (He) shot like 39 percent from the 3point line. Again, I think he’s got a chance to have a big jump. I think last year in our conference games, he averaged close to nine points, 10 points a game. That’s pretty good for a freshman, so our expectations are there. I think Samir [Sehic], the way he played for us last year, he could have another bump up. We’ve got a lot of guys, but the guys that we have coming in, all five of those guys, I think (they) are going to contribute for us. Last year, a lot of times, the talent we were playing against was some pretty good and I was probably playing seven guys. And then what happens is, even when you get some of those guys great looks and they don’t make them, I don’t have an answer. We’re getting our best shooters the best looks and if it doesn’t go in, it doesn’t go in. There’s nothing else we can really do about it. This year, I think we’re going to have a lot more options. We’re going to see guys who have the ability to come in and get on a roll in terms of putting the ball in the basket. Like I said, the three freshman we have coming in, all three shoot the three. Buay Koka is seven feet (tall) with a 7’7″ wingspan. You’re gonna love his effort. From a stand point of shot-blocking, offensive rebounding, everything he does running the floor, you’re going to see something great there. Shakwon Barrett is probably our most creative playmaker, (with) the ability to create easy baskets for guys who can’t create shots. So again, I feel very confident that we’re going to have an exciting team. How great a season we have, honestly, will be dependent on how these five new guys blend in, how they can assimilate and play a little bit older than they are maybe. I think they have the potential to do that. Otherwise, like I said, I’m really pleased with who we have and our direction.”

On having a program like Wichita State in the American Athletic Conference…
“I love it. We didn’t play them home-and-home, we only played them there last year. That is a tough place to play. They packed the joint and they are loud, and they were a great team last year, very physical, and we didn’t have a great first half. We got in some foul trouble and got down, close to 20 points, in that game and really made a great run at them. (We) came back and Mel [Frazier] had a great second half. He might have had two points the first half and ended up with 21 in the game. One of the things about our team last year that I always felt good about was we didn’t give up. We kept playing hard. We kept coming after you. One of the things that we talked about, one of the things that we strived for, is to be in great condition. I think we had seven games last year where we came back from double-digits in games in the second half to win. Part of what we talk about with our team is to keep running, keep pushing and just trust this. Trust that we’re going to wear guys down, get better shots, and just keep playing hard. I feel like we did that.”

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Ed Daniels

Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/WGSO 990am

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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