NEW ORLEANS — There’s no uncertainty about where the Tulane basketball team’s points are coming from.
Unlike the previous two seasons under Ed Conroy, the Green Wave looked at its roster before opening practice on the 2012-13 season Friday afternoon and found a wealth of experienced production.
A pair of former first-team all-Conference USA selections, point guard Ricky Tarrant and forward Kendall Timmons, highlight a squad which returns all five starters from its torrid 12-2 start last year before the injury-depleted Green Wave slid to a 15-16 final record.
With Tarrant and Timmons both in the lineup, playing alongside fellow returnees guard Jordan Callahan, forward Josh Davis and center Tomas Bruha, last year’s Green Wave jumped out to its best start since it won the Metro Conference in 1991-92 and appeared poised to return Tulane to the postseason for the first time since reaching the NIT in 2000.
Despite an unsuccessful second half of the season, Tulane enters the season bursting with confidence earned from those first 14 games. Because when healthy, the Wave’s starting five produced more than 90 percent of Tulane’s offense last year and provided an obvious offensive blueprint entering its first season in the newly renovated and renamed Devlin Fieldhouse (formerly named Fogelman Arena).
While details on the playing facility’s upgrades are being held quiet by Tulane’s administration, Timmons said there’s no secret about the Wave’s potential with so many contributors back on the court.
“We return a lot of guys, and when we were all on the court together, we were a really tough team to beat,” Timmons said. “For the first time since I’ve been here, we have a lot of go-to guys and we all pretty much know our roles on the team before the season even gets going. In the past, we had to feel it out when the season got going, but we’re already aware of who we are and what we can do.
“If we can stay healthy, I think we have enough coming back to play with anybody, we just have to prove that we can.”
Thus far under Conroy, Tulane hasn’t.
In each of the past two seasons, the Wave’s fast start was hobbled by midseason injuries and uneven play, resulting in back-to-back 3-13 C-USA records and last place finishes in the league standings.
Last year, Timmons and Bruha combined to miss all but two conference games, forcing the offensive burden to fall upon Tarrant. While the increased offensive focus may have boosted Tarrant’s scoring numbers (raising his points per game from 11.7 before Timmons’ injury to 18.2 after it) and propelled him to C-USA Freshman of the Year honors, he’s happy to surrender statistics for a healthy roster.
Bruha’s injured knee returned to full strength over the summer. Timmons said he’s no longer feeling the effects of his injured Achilles and is “full go” to start the season, already practicing at 100 percent intensity.
“I’m not sure people realize how good Kendall is,” Tarrant said. “I mean, this time last year, he was preseason first-team all-conference. He’s one of the best players in the league, without a doubt. With him and Tomas back, it really helps me and makes me more of a distributor and more of a point guard, rather than someone who has to try to score all of the time.”
The tandem of Tarrant and Timmons gives Tulane reliable scorers who have displayed an ability to create their own offense, despite being focal points for opposing defenses. The pair also provides a dependable core, setting a positive example for the rest of the roster to work from, according to Conroy.
“They both have experience with success, and that leads to confidence which the rest of our team can feed off of,” Conroy said. “The best thing about both of them is that they are really competitive guys. They bring it every day in practice and always set the tone.
“There are a lot of guys who are vying for time, and we know those are two guys who have already shown they can separate themselves and they can create the intensity. And by comparing people to them, we will absolutely know who is ready to go.”
As for the rest of the rotation, Conroy said he expects to feel it out in practices, before opening the season in Atlanta against Georgia Tech on Nov. 9. He stressed the importance of internal competition, reluctant to reveal the likely starting lineup on opening night.
After tumultuous finishes the past two seasons, Conroy said he’s relying on depth to propel the Wave.
“We can’t just die off, and we can’t fizzle out again,” Timmons said. “We need to have more than one leader, and we have so many guys back that I feel like it can be a different guy to come in every day and bring something to keep everyone motivated. We need to practice like there’s something on the line and play like no one’s job is safe. We’ve done everything we could this offseason to prepare, but it really starts now.”
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