Improvement could be big for Tulane hoops this winter

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NEW ORLEANS – For Tulane basketball, it was going to be hard not to improve off a six-win season in Mike Dunleavy Sr.’s first year at the helm.

Based on the first two games of Dunleavy’s second team, the improvement could be large.

The Green Wave has averaged 95.5 points per game in wins over LIU Brooklyn and Southeastern Louisiana, the program’s first 2-0 start in four years. It makes its first road trip of the season this weekend to Jamaica, where it will face Colorado State and Fordham.

“I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t win at least 15 games this year,” Dunleavy said Tuesday at the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club at Rock ‘n’ Bowl.

“It was a big rebuilding program, but if you look at our last 10 games of (2016-17), we really improved,” Dunleavy said.

Tulane returns three starters: Fifth-year senior wing Cameron Reynolds, who was voted the American Athletic Conference’s most improved player a year ago; and guards Ray Ona Embo and Melvin Frazier.

A pair of local products – UNLV transfer Jordan Cornish, who prepped at Brother Martin, and sophomore Blake Paul, who tied a school record with eight blocked shots against Southeastern – are the new starters.

Besides Cornish, Dunleavy added six other newcomers this year, including Vanderbilt transfer Samir Sehic and freshman signee Caleb Daniels of St. Augustine.

Dunleavy’s pitch to these and future newcomers to his program – come learn from a coach who spent four decades in the NBA.

“I do everything (at Tulane) I did at the NBA level – conditioning, on down the line,” Dunleavy said. “We played the fastest pace of anybody in our league (last season).

“We’re going to make you better, and if you have the ability to play at the next level, we’re going to get you there. Because you’re basically playing in an NBA system, your evaluation is going to be easy for NBA general managers.

“I feel like we’re in it, down the road, with a lot of high-level kids.”

Tulane is not just a ride-off-into-the-sunset job for the 63-year-old Dunleavy.

“I came here to win,” he said.

And apparently, that means more than just breaking .500. His sons, Mike Jr. and Baker, have been affiliated with national  championship programs at Duke and Villanova, respectively.

“For me, the Villanova and Duke programs that have won national championships, I know who they are and what they’ve done,”  Dunleavy said. “If they can do it, we can do it.”

Tulane’s games this weekend in Jamaica will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

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Lenny Vangilder


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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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