Freshman forward Melvin Frazier anticipates more than 30 family members and friends will attend the Tulane men’s basketball team’s season opener against Alabama A&M on Friday night at Devlin Fieldhouse.
That’s the new norm for the Green Wave, which has a heavy local flavor for the first time this century. Frazier, who attended Higgins High in Avondale, is one of six scholarships players from the metro area for a school that has not sported more than three Louisiana natives in any year for a long time.
The benefits are obvious, but so are the potential distractions. Coach Ed Conroy felt some of the New Orleans-area players felt the pressure of playing close to home in their exhibition game against Loyola on Nov. 5.
With that first experience out of the way, they may be more comfortable this time.
“I’ve got a pretty good crowd coming in, but I’m not going to let it get to me,” said Frazier, the lone freshman starter in the lineup. “I’m just going to play my game.”
Also making their regular-season debuts in front of the home fans are backup point guard Von Julien, who attended Riverside Academy; forward Blake Paul (Landry-Walker); LSU transfer Malik Morgan (John Curtis); and graduate transfer Jernard Jarreau (McDonogh 35). They join senior holdover Louis Dabney, a New Orleans native who played for Riverside, to make up more than half of the available scholarship players.
“There’s no question that having these guys from the local area that people are familiar with has generated some excitement and some buzz,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “Hopefully it’s going to help us grow our fan base, but it does come with some new challenges. It maybe adds some pressure on these guys to perform. It’s going to be a process for these guys to grow as a team where all their strengths come out.”
Alabama A&M went 9-20 last season but returns its top eight scorers, including preseason first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selections Ladarius Tabb and Nick West.
As the Wave tries to mesh its talented newcomers with four returning players, they will take all of the help they can get.
“It’s going to play a huge role in our game,” Morgan said. “We always need the fan support, and we definitely love to have our families there cheering for us the whole night.”