SHAWN FINNEY ATTENDS C-USA BASKETBALL MEDIA DAY

I think the biggest thing has been the team-first attitude of the guys. Everybody gets along well together and works well together. The entire team is ready to get out on the court and work and play hard. They do not seem to be focusing on themselves as individuals, but more what the team needs to do

Conference USA held its annual basketball media day at the O'Hare Airport Marriott on Sunday in Chicago. All of the league's men and women's basketball coaches were on hand to participate in various television interviews and to field questions from media from throughout the country. Tulane head men's basketball coach Shawn Finney, now in his fourth year at the helm of the Green Wave, only four C-USA coaches have been in the league longer, conducted numerous interviews at the event.

Here are excerpts from Finney's interviews:
Q: You have been practicing for a week now. Do you like what you have seen?
SF: Yes, practice has gone pretty well. The first day was the best first day of practice since I have been at Tulane and the next day was solid also. The guys started showing some fatigue by the third day, but overall, I am pleased with everybody's condition and willingness to work on what we are trying to do.

Q: What has been the thing that has stood out the most for you?
SF: I think the biggest thing has been the team-first attitude of the guys. Everybody gets along well together and works well together. The entire team is ready to get out on the court and work and play hard. They do not seem to be focusing on themselves as individuals, but more what the team needs to do.

Q: What has been your focus in practice thus far?
SF: We are still going to be an exciting team that runs, presses and shoots the three, but the bottom line is half-court defense. We have focused a lot on that in the early going. Half-court defense is what wins games in February and March. The press can set tempos and tones, but when it comes down to it, you need to stop the other guy in the halfcourt.

Q: Is that [half-court defense] something you were disappointed in last year?
SF: I was disappointed in our half-court defense in December and early January. When we were 0-4 in the league, we were not guarding and stopping people in the half-court. But when we came around and started taking care of business, we started winning games. By the end of the year, we were playing good half-court defense; this year, we want to make sure we do that right from the start.

Q: You graduated your top four scorers, who do you expect to fill in those roles?
SF: We will be a much different team this year, no question. Any time you lose as many seniors as we did, you are concerned with who will step up. But after a week of full practice and individual work-outs this fall, I am confident that we will be able to score. Ivan Pjevcevic showed he can really shoot the ball last year, but he will also be a factor inside, just based on his size.

Marcus Kinzer is a true-point guard who looks to set up the offense first, which is something we have not really had before. He will get his points with his quickness and ability to get in the lane, but the big thing is that he will set things up for our shooters by penetrating and dishing back out. Wayne Tinsley has three years as a starter and we do need him to step up his scoring some this year, but we need him to do it within the offense. There is no need to force things, if we play the game right, the way we want to pay, scoring opportunities will be available for everybody.

Q: Have any of the freshmen shown that they could be immediate impact players?
SF: I have been really pleased with the freshmen. They are all working hard and learning a lot. It is always tough to make the transition from high school basketball to college, but I think they all will be key players for us.

Having said that, Vincent Camper is the one freshmen who is physically ready to play at this level. He is 6-3, 210 pounds and really uses his size well. He can get the ball into the paint and is strong enough to take it right to the hoop. He handles the ball extremely well and will be effective against presses and half-court defenses. I could see Vincent getting a lot of time for us right from the start.

Another guy who has impressed me has been Dan Fitzgerald with his basketball IQ. That is something you can't teach; he understands the game and the concepts and knows what he is supposed to be doing. Physically he will still need to work, like the rest of the guys, but he has a lot of potential as well. I don't want to leave anyone out though, all of the guys have exceeded expectations for us.

Q: Do you need Wayne Tinsley to be a leader this year?
SF: Wayne has been a leader in some ways since he has been here. He has always played a lot and worked hard. He brings a lot of emotion and desire to the court; he will do whatever it takes to win. What we need this year is for Wayne to lead by example in all ways. We still need his effort on the court, but we need him to help the young guys and do the right things, be early for practice, continue to do extra work, take care of business in the classroom, all the things that we need to become part of the mentality of the team. With all of the young guys, you need to foster that atmosphere from the start.

Q: What other difference do you see with your team this year?
SF: Quincy Davis. For the first time since I have been here, we will have a shot-blocker in the back. Quincy really came on strong at the end of last season; showing he could defend and rebound. He did show some scoring, but so far this year, he is looking very good. I think he will be a major difference for us; he has the ability to alter games with hislength and athleticism.

Q: You have improved your win total in each year you have been here, can you do it again?
SF: I do not like to set goals for specific wins or anything, but I am excited about this team. We built a good foundation in my first three years and now this team can really build itself. We have a lot of young guys who will be here for a while and have something special. We need to get started on the right foot and win some games early and gain some experience and then see what happens in conference play. I really think we will surprise a lot of people.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about conference re-alignment, teams leaving, teams coming. How does that affect what you are doing?
SF: It really does not affect things at all for me. I am going to continue building a basketball program here at Tulane, regardless of who is in our league. I will recruit in the same way and coach the same style of play. I am confidant that Tulane and Conference USA is doing whatever is necessary for our program, but it is not something I can control, so I am just focusing on my team.


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