Tulane senior guard Louis Dabney recently tweeted a photo of him receiving second-team All-American Athletic Conference honors from 2014-15 and added the caption, “Not good enough. Tryna kill it this year.”
The first three words of that tweet might as well reflect Dabney’s entire experience with the men’s basketball team. The last five encapsulate what he thinks the Green Wave can accomplish this season.
With practice starting Saturday, coach Ed Conroy clearly has the most athletic, talented group in his six-year tenure. The question is how quickly he can meld a highly rated, five-player freshman class and two transfers into a cohesive unit with Dabney, sophomore starting center Dylan Osetkowski (6.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and returning guards Cameron Reynolds and Kajon Mack.
Count Dabney as a true believer.
“You’ve got to give the coaches their props for going out and getting these type of guys all to come in at once like that,” he said. “I feel like we can be one of the top teams in this conference, and that’s not just talk. I really believe it.”
The Wave has not been close to that level in 15 years. Its best conference finish under Conroy was 8-8 in 2013-14, and it appeared overmatched in its AAC debut a year ago, losing all but two of its past 13 while failing to score more than 60 points in a 11-game stretch.
Dabney averaged a team-high 14.4 points but shot a paltry 36.6 percent.
“It got real tough at times,” he said. “Teams would double me or deny (3-point shooting specialist) Jay Hook and it just left us with a big question mark on could anyone do something. This team, you really can’t focus on me and say you’re going to stop us. We have a lot more scorers and a lot better players honestly.”
For the second time in Dabney’s career, Tulane lost multiple transfers, including starting point guard Jonathan Stark and his backup. But unlike 2012-13, when the departure of Josh Davis and Ricky Tarrant left the Wave bereft of proven talent, this roster is stocked with potential.
Freshman guards Von Julien, Kain Harris and Melvin Frazier all come with high accolades, as does freshman forward Blake Paul of Landry-Walker.
Guard Malik Morgan, an LSU transfer who had to sit out 2014-15, drew raves from the coaches during practice last year. Graduate transfer Jernard Jarreau, a 6-foot-10 McDonogh 35 product who average 24.3 minutes for Washington, is an athletic forward Tulane lacked in the past.
Reynolds, a versatile 6-7 sophomore guard, played in only nine games before being sidelined with a wrist injury.
This team looks nothing like last season’s.
“What stands out overall is how they’ve elevated our team quickness and our team size,” Conroy said. “That just allows you to do a lot of different things.”
The shot-clock reduction to 30 seconds that will go into effect this year would have hurt Conroy’s previous teams, which operated at a glacial pace. This season, the Wave wants to flow up and down the floor.
Dabney, who is three points away from scoring 1,000 in his career, can’t wait to get started.
“We’re really going to get out and run this year,” he said. “These new guys, they can fly. All of them can fly.”