Jan. 27, 2004
The oldest player on the Tulane roster, Wayne Tinsley brings far more than years to the Green Wave men's basketball team. His experiences include over 100 college basketball games, three-plus years of college classes, more than six years away from home, knee injuries, rolling trucks and wins and losses. Wayne Tinsley is a veteran.
After 10 games of the 2003-04 season, Tulane's top freshman had played 126 minutes. Back in 2000-2001, Tinsley needed just five games to reach that many minutes as a Green Wave freshman. After 10 games, this year's freshman class has logged 70 road miles with a single trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU. After five games in his rookie year, Tinsley had travelled over 4,000 road miles thanks to a trip to Hawaii for the Big Island Classic.
Through New Year's Day 2004, Tinsley had totaled 2,707 minutes in his career. The rest of the team had seen 3,627 total minutes of action. Take away Marcus Kinzer's 973 career minutes and Tinsley has played more minutes than the other 11 members of the Wave team, COMBINED.
"Wayne has actually been here longer than I have," said Tulane head coach Shawn Finney, who was hired prior to Tinsley's freshman season, although the California native was already on campus for a summer visit. "He is not a vocal, in-your-face guy, but he is our leader. All of the guys look to him because he has been here and been out on the court (the longest). He has done a little bit of everything for us in his four years."
During Tinsley's freshman season in 2000-01, he was part of a Green Wave squad which won nine games, an impressive feat considering the limited roster and experience. Tinsley immediately proved himself ready for basketball as he started 29 games that year to set the school record for starts by a freshman.
As those numbers show, Tinsley was anything but your typical freshman. While most first-year collegians battle homesickness and adjusting to life away from home, he already had gone through that experience after spending three years at the Salisbury School, a prep school in Connecticut, 3,000 miles from his home and family in California.
"My high school coach [in California] was great," Tinsley said. "But it was just better for me to get away and prepare myself academically to get into a good school."
Adjusting to college was simple for Tinsley; he had experienced his homesickness as a 15-year old in Connecticut.
"When I first got to Connecticut, they put me in a single (room) which was the size of a bathroom," Tinsley said. "I couldn't take it; I was sleeping with the door open. They soon put me in a room with somebody else and I stayed with the same roommate for my three years there."
As a sophomore for the Green Wave, Tinsley started all 29 games, continuing to provide energy and defensive intensity for the team. However, while preparing for his junior campaign, he suffered an off-season knee injury, causing him to miss the preseason and struggle through early-season games.
"Anything that keeps me from playing basketball makes me appreciate it that much more," Tinsley said. "Having an injury and sitting on the sideline every practice, it got frustrating, but it made me appreciate being out there on the court. So now when I get knick-knack injuries, I don't look at it as a big deal because it's not as big as what I had before."
Despite the preseason injury, Tinsley posted a career-best year in rebounds, assists, blocks, turnovers, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage.
He had lived away from home for six years, played in 89 collegiate games, guarded the likes of DaJuan Wagner and Dwyane Wade, experienced a tough knee injury and set school records.
However, Tinsley had never had a life-threatening incident...until the summer of 2003.
Driving home from a road trip to Atlanta this summer, Tinsley and a friend were run off the road by another driver. The SUV they were riding in flipped and rolled, and both occupants were thrown from the vehicle. Amazingly, neither was seriously injured, with Tinsley suffering cuts and gashes.
"I knew this was my last season," Tinsley said. "But [the accident] put more emphasis on it; this was it; I'll be done playing college basketball after this season. Now I take every moment like it's my last."
In addition to affecting his appreciation for basketball, the accident also affected the way he thinks of life.
"As far as my life, it definitely made me miss my parents much more, because I have not been with them in so long," Tinsley said. "It made me feel like I do want to go home when I am done playing college basketball, because I haven't been around them. An incident like that scared me; made me want to be around my parents more."
Tinsley credits his parents for helping him become the person he is today. He says that if it wasn't for the morals and lessons they imparted on him, he never would have been prepared to go away to school at such a young age. And he never would have succeeded on the basketball court or at a university like Tulane.
"Watching my mother and father work so hard to give me everything they could [made an impact on me]," Tinsley said. "I didn't have a lot of friends growing up, but my parents were my friends. They helped me become what I am. When I went away from home, I had them inside me, I did what they would have done. I handle things better because of them."
The lessons which began with his parents and progressed through numerous trials and experiences are now being passed on to the young Green Wave players.
"What Wayne does is lead by example," freshman Dan Fitzgerald said. "He always does the little things like telling each individual player what to do in certain situations. He always tells me to just keep playing and not to worry about messing up and to be confident in myself and what I can do."
"I try to make them [the young players] feel like we are a family," Tinsley said. "I know that some of the freshmen may get a little homesick, they may have girlfriends back home, just stuff distracting them. But I try my hardest every chance I get to make them feel comfortable and make them feel like part of the team."
The Green Wave coaching staff appreciates having a player who can lead, on and off the court. Not to mention one of the top defensive players in Conference USA.
"Wayne usually guards the other team's best player; he is probably our best on the ball defender," assistant coach Steve Snell said. "With his experience, he not only helps the younger guys during the games, but there's not a lot that he hasn't seen or been through in the four years he has been here."
A true leader, Tinsley is in search of overall success. He downplays individual goals and accomplishments, instead keeping his eye on the team.
"My goals are basically team goals," Tinsley said. "I just want to win games. Everything as far as me as an individual will take care of itself. We have had games we shouldn't have lost, but that's in the past; we can only look forward now."
"My goals are basically team goals. I just want to win games. Everything as far as me as an individual will take care of itself. We have had games we shouldn't have lost, but that's in the past; we can only look forward now."
As does Tinsley. And he is not just planning his basketball future. A media arts major, he is on track to graduate in May and is compiling his résumé while trying to line up a summer internship, while also hoping to keep his basketball options open.
"The best thing about Wayne is that he leads by example," Finney said. "He goes up and works hard in practice and in games; he has continued to learn every day; and he has taken care of his school work. He is an all-around student-athlete."
From a savvy freshman on a nine-man roster to the leading senior on a team dominated by underclassmen, Wayne Tinsley has developed into not just a veteran, but a leader, a well-rounded student-athlete and a great representative of Tulane University and Tulane Basketball.