Cameron Reynolds became the 36th Tulane men’s basketball player with 1,000 career points Wednesday against Alcorn State, but he sees a much bigger opportunity Sunday.
The Green Wave’s game at 13th-ranked North Carolina is a chance to bring national attention to a program that has lacked any buzz in 20 years, has not been to the NIT since 2000 and last played in the NCAA tournament in 1995.
“We want to prove we’re going in the right direction and just putting Tulane back on the map, from back in the '90s,” he said. “That’s the goal. We want to go to the postseason, so to get there, we have to beat teams like this.”
Obviously, the Wave (6-1) winning in the Dean Dome is an extreme long shot, but Reynolds played with tremendous confidence against the Tar Heels (7-1) last year. In coach Mike Dunleavy’s first game as a college coach, he scored a then-career-high 21 points on 5-of-6 3-point shooting in Tulane’s 95-75 loss to the eventual national champions at the Smoothie King Center
He bore little resemblance to the player who went 0 for 4 in 16 minutes when Tulane played at North Carolina in December of 2015.
“That just showed my confidence had skyrocketed,” he said. “I felt like I could play with anybody.”
After averaging 17.0 points as a junior — the highest total for a Tulane player since Josh Davis in 2012-13 — Reynolds tied a career high with seven 3-pointers against Alcorn State as he surged past 1,000 career points.
Nearly two-thirds of them (646) have come in the past two years. He admitted some relief in reaching the milestone after enduring a rough shooting day at Georgia State in his first opportunity to get 1,000 points.
“It wasn’t really something I was harping on, but now that I’ve got it, it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “Everything feels more free.”
Reynolds, likely will defend North Carolina All-America candidate Luke Maye, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound player. Maye, who averages 20.1 points and 9.4 rebounds, grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds in the Tar Heels’ 85-75 victory against Davidson on Friday night.
Reynolds is the same height as Maye but gives away at least 15 pounds.
“He (Reynolds) is so versatile,” Dunleavy said. “He knows what he can do and plays within our system. He has the ability to play from the outside, he can play from inside and he can play with mobility.”
He will have to be physical against North Carolina, which outrebounded Davidson by a margin of 54-23. Dunleavy, who has gone with small lineups in the first seven games to match up with opponents, plans to use all of his big men on Sunday to combat the Tar Heels’ size, giving roles to little-used freshmen Bul Ajang and Buay Koka as well as junior Sammis Reyes.
Tulane has not beaten a ranked team since No. 25 North Carolina State in 2000. The Green Wave also is 0-12 against defending national champions but took one of them, Michael Jordan-led North Carolina in 1982, to three overtimes in a 70-68 defeat that required a steal and Jordan basket at the buzzer to tie the score at the end of regulation.
Reynolds will do everything in his power to put Tulane in a similar position this time.
“What I like best about him is that’s he a team player,” said forward Samir Sehic, the Wave’s leading rebounder. “He never forces bad shots. He doesn’t hunt shots. The ball really finds him in the offense. He knows how to play basketball.”