Oct. 13, 1999
A quick glance at the following numbers would indicate why Tulane head coach Perry Clark is so optimistic heading into the 1999-2000 basketball season.
5: The amount of improvement in the win column shown by last yearís team.
8: The number of players returning from that squad.
76: The average percentage of statistical output returning from the 1998-99 season (see chart on page four).
17,832: The capacity of the state-of-the-art New Orleans Arena, the new home of Green Wave basketball.
Probably the most important number of that group is eight, the number of veterans returning from last season. The inexperience of the past two seasons has been replaced by an experienced, cohesive unit that has worked hard together to continue Tulaneís upward movement.
"I think theyíre very comfortable with each other," said Clark. "Iíve been pleased with the teamís work ethic so far. We need to continue to work hard, be fundamentally sound and execute offensively in order to be successful."
Tulaneís offensive execution starts with three of its most experienced players. Forward Ledaryl Billingsley (6-7, 250, Jr., Chicago, Ill.) is the Green Waveís leading returning scorer. The Chicago, Ill. native blossomed last season, averaging 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest. Over the last half of the 1998-99 campaign, Billingsley posted averages of 14.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Billingsley has the ability to take over a game, as witnessed by his string of four consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound games last February. The 1999 all-Louisiana performer needs to perform at that level on a daily basis to key the Tulane offensive attack.
"Ledaryl played like one of the best players in the conference," Clark explained. "At times he was spectacular. That is the kind of play we need from Ledaryl all year."
Anchoring the frontcourt are forward Sterling Davis and center Morris Jordan. Davis (6-7, 240, Sr., Duncanville, Texas.) is the most experienced player on the squad. Having seen action in 86 games in his three-year career, Davis began to assert himself last year, posting career-high averages of 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds. He also tied for the team lead with 15 double-figure scoring games.
Jordan (6-10, 235, Sr., New Orleans, La.) needs to continue the improvement heís shown over the last two seasons to solidify things in the middle. Consistency is also a key for the Crescent City native, as six of his seven double-figure scoring efforts (including both 20-point games) in 1998-99 came before the turn of the year. Jordan will also make important contributions to this team with his leadership and maturity.
"Both Sterling and Morris showed how much maturity and ability they have at times last year," said the 11th-year head coach. "For us to be successful, it is absolutely critical for them to really show what they can do night in and night out. We have to get a consistent effort throughout the season. Their maturity will help us as well."
Tulaneís guard play will also be much improved as four very productive players return with another year of experience under their collective belts.
Senior Dylan Osean (6-4, 195, Sr., Bedford, Texas) leads the group, having played more minutes than any player on the roster. Osean set new career bests in eight statistical categories, including field goal percentage (.444), 3-point field goal percentage (.385) and scoring average (8.4).
Also returning to the backcourt are seniors Marlo Miles and Wade Mason and sophomore Waitari Marsh. Miles (6-1, 195, Sr., Chicago, Ill.) will quarterback the crew, handling the majority of the point guard duties. The transfer from Kennedy-King J.C. made quite an impact last season, ranking fourth on the squad in assists in just 14 games played.
Milesí leadership and decision-making abilities were on display as seven of the Waveís 12 wins came with him on the court.
"Marlo is a very mature player," Clark said. "He has a calming influence on the team. Itís no secret that we cut our turnovers in half with him on the floor."
Marsh (6-2, 195, So., Chicago, Ill.) and Mason (6-2, 185, Sr., New Orleans, La.) each had solid campaigns a year ago. Marsh was one of the top freshman in Conference USA, averaging 6.2 points and 3.4 assists last season. The sophomore ranked in the leagueís top 10 in both assists and steals in 1998-99. Mason, Tulaneís sixth man, averaged 6.2 points and ranked second on the squad in assists (70) and steals (27).
Forward Linton Johnson (6-8, 195, So., Chicago, Ill.) is the Green Waveís best leaper and one of the best offensive rebounders on the team. In limited action last season, 25 of Johnsonís 47 rebounds were on the offensive glass.
Three newcomers will add flexibility at the guard spot and some much-needed help on the glass.
Trello Galloway (6-7, 220, Fr., Myrtle Beach, S.C.) averaged 14.0 points and 10.0 rebounds for Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. An outstanding rebounder, Galloway was rated as the 22nd-best fifth-year prep player in the nation by Hoop Scoop magazine.
"Trello Galloway is going to really help us on the boards," said Clark. "Heís one of the best rebounders ever to come out of Fork Union. Trello just does all of the tough stuff."
Two-sport standout Kerwin Jones (6-2, 190, Fr., Patterson, La.) will add depth at the guard position. Also a member of the Tulane football squad, Jones was a three-time all-district selection on the hardwood. As a senior, he averaged 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game and earned MVP honors at the Louisiana prep All-Star Game.
The final newcomer is all-state guard Brandon Spann (6-1, 185, Fr., New Orleans, La.). He averaged 21.9 points last season in earning class 5A all-state honors. Spann is expected to see quite a bit of playing time at the point guard position.
"Brandon has a tremendous work ethic," said Clark. "He can score and defend. Heís an old-time Tulane player that brings a little bit of pop back into our lineup."
With the addition of Spann and Jones to the Green Wave roster, Coach Clark feels that guard play could be this teamís strong suit.
"I think that having Marlo [Miles] back and the addition of [Brandon] Spann really improves our point guard play," Clark said. "Waitari Marsh will be an outstanding basketball player, but itís difficult to be successful with just one pure point guard. Having Marlo back with all of his maturity, along with Spann, gives us a lot more flexibility at the point and allows us to move Wade [Mason] to the two guard where he will be able to defend better and help us with rebounding."
Tulane enters the 1999-2000 campaign ready to debut a new home. The Green Wave will play six home games in the 17,832-seat, NBA-caliber facility. Tulane will christen the facility in the Preseason NIT against Fordham (Nov. 17) and other dates against Texas A&M (Dec. 8), North Carolina State (Dec. 22), Cincinnati (Jan. 12), New Orleans (Jan. 24) and Memphis (Feb. 9).
"The new arena is key for us," said Clark "Itís important for our kids to have a great place to play. This will give us a real big-time basketball atmosphere."
As Clark directs this versatile, tight-knit group into the 90th season of Tulane basketball, their sights are clearly set on the postseason. If the team continues to work together, anything is possible.
"There is a hunger out there," Clark said. "We havenít been to the postseason since 1997 and weíre very hungry to get back."