Finney Hosts Press Conference To Preview Opener

"This weekend we open with LSU. It's going to be a big challenge going on the road and opening up with a quality team like them. John Brady has the most talented team since he's been there, I think. They're still young, but we're going to have to match their intensity. We have to go on the road and counter their athleticism and handle shooters like Darrel Mitchell

NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Tulane University men's basketball team opens its 2004-05 season this weekend at the Louisiana Basketball Classic in Baton Rouge. On Friday, the Green Wave plays LSU at 8 p.m. in a game that will be televised live on Cox Sports TV. The consolation and championship games of the tournament will be played on Sunday at 12:30 and 3 p.m., respectively.

All Green Wave men's games are broadcast by the Tulane ISP Radio Network, which includes WTIX AM 690 in New Orleans and WJSH FM 104.7 on the Northshore. Season tickets and single-game tickets for all home games are available by calling 504-861-WAVE.

Tulane opens its home schedule on Saturday, Nov. 27, hosting Prairie View A&M at 7 p.m. at Fogelman Arena.

On Tuesday, head coach Shawn Finney addressed the media in the Hall of Fame Room of Tulane's Wilson Center.

Opening Statement:
"This weekend we open with LSU. It's going to be a big challenge going on the road and opening up with a quality team like them. John Brady has the most talented team since he's been there, I think. They're still young, but we're going to have to match their intensity. We have to go on the road and counter their athleticism and handle shooters like Darrel Mitchell. It's a great test right off the bat to see where our program is at this current stage. It's going to be a fun weekend. We're going to have the opportunity to play two in-state teams - Lafayette or La Tech [on the second day]. It's going to be a lot of fun this weekend and we're ready to travel across I-10 to get the season started."

Do you think it's a good test for the team to play in a hostile environment at the beginning of the season?
I think opening up on the road creates a mentality right away, that you have to be mentally tough, especially playing a quality team like LSU. The freshmen are going to see right away what division one college basketball is all about. That will set the tone for the rest of the season. How we handle it and what we have to do to keep getting better, whether we win or lose. I think it'll be a good test for the freshmen and an awakening. We have 13 guys and I don't know who's not going to play Friday. That's a great thing for a coach to look at all the talent we have and see who's going to bring it on any given night. The freshmen are really going to get into the flow and see what it's all about.

Can you project the starting lineup?
It's a secret until 10 minutes before the game [laughing]. Some guys we know, like Quincy Davis is going to start; Marcus Kinzer is going to start; Ivan Pjevcevic as long as he progresses and the swelling doesn't get worse [returning from knee surgery] and I think Vincent Camper will start. There is still one spot that is up for grabs and it's really going to come down to the next couple of days between Ben Benfield and Chris Moore to achieve that spot.

What is Ivan Pjevcevic's condition?
I don't know if he's capable of playing 36 minutes; he's not in that condition. The days in-between games he needs to get rest and knock out the swelling and get treatment. How he recovers is going to be the tale more than the actual game. It's hard for him to go three or four days in a row without excessive swelling. And it is hard to get in game shape without going three or four days in a row. It's not where it was three weeks ago and the recovery is a lot quicker. I anticipate he will be able to play 20 to 25 minutes this weekend.

How would you compare the talent level of this team versus your other years with Tulane basketball?
During my third season we had a very mature basketball team. They might have had more talent one through six, but now we have more talent one through thirteen. But we are still a very young team with eight freshmen and sophomores. We gained good experience last season; that was the first season with the [current] upperclassmen playing a lot of minutes. With Marcus Kinzer and Q [Quincy Davis], they only have one full year of experience under their belt with this team. We're a young team and we're going to have some growing pains and how we mature along the way is going to be the key.

What kind of goals do you set for a team that has a lot of young players?
Ultimately you have a lot of big goals and small goals. The first goal you approach with a young team is get better every day, play to the best to your ability, and play basketball the right way – learn the game. And those are small goals that you use day to day. Everybody has goals of winning the conference, winning the Conference USA tournament, and going to NCAA postseason games. We are not going to let one setback during the course of the season affect all of our goals. There is not a team in recent years that has won 27 out of 27 games. It's just not realistic, so we set goals along the way to set certain mile marks and as we reach those we are going to adjust those along the season.

What do you think about C-USA over the past few years and where it is now?
Conference USA is a great league, we're still looking at five to six teams going to the NCAA tournament and capable to having up to four in the postseason NIT. So you're looking at eight to ten teams. I think C-USA is the best it has ever been - schools have really made a commitment to basketball. Look at the elevation of the Louisville program the last couple of years; Memphis; and Marquette going to the final four two years ago. It's a good league and you have to come ready play night in and night out and that is going to be the difference in our league. When you look at who was in the bottom of our league last year, it's going to be much improved and you are going to have to strap it on every night. I think it's a great league, a fun basketball league and a lot of competitive games.

Which freshmen have made the biggest impact?
The one thing you have with freshmen is consistency, can you get them to do it night-in and night-out. I know what they are capable of doing, whether or not they can apply it is going to be the big test. Last season we started 22 games with freshmen, but on a given night one man might get two the next night he might get twelve and that's what you're looking for is consistency. Taylor Rochestie is playing real consistent in practice; David Gomez plays with tremendous effort and energy and creates a lot of opportunities with that. Matt Wheaton and Donnie Stith, they both play up and down, some days it's one guy playing consistent. When you look at those four freshmen there, consistency is really the bulk of it. Robinson is going to be a factor inside, because he's very long and he bangs, but he's got more competition for minutes. Quincy [Davis], Vytautas [Tatarunas], and Kory [Castine]; there's more competition to break into minutes.

Your team has the size factor, does that give you the confidence to beat LSU?
We have fouls to give and that's a big issue. Last season, one guy gets in foul trouble; we were thin. In the preseason, Kory was out and we were down to three post players. So we got real thin inside. That's going to be a big help, that we can go to more than one guy, have more fouls to give, and not play tentative defense in the post because we don't have another body to come in behind him.

What do you think of LSU's Brandon Bass?
Pro. I think after this season he'll have a chance to be a lottery pick. He's got athleticism and he plays hard. I'm not there day-to-day, but for the next level as his ball handling gets better and his shot lanes get moved out I think he's really going to have the opportunity to make a lot of money in this game someday.

What does Tulane need to do as a team?
We have to defend, we have to value the basketball, and we have to play as a team. We are going to play to our strengths as a team and not rely upon individual players. We don't have one guy that just takes the game over night-in and night-out like a Baron Davis. We have to go in and approach this as a team and play together – us against them mentality. We have guys that can shoot the three and got guys who can put it on the floor, but we have to win games as a team, not as individuals. The strengths are spread out amongst the team. We have seven to nine guys who can step-up on any given night and carry this team, and that's a big key for us. If Ben Benfield's not making threes than maybe Chris Moore is making threes; if Chris isn't making them, Marcus Kinzer is making them. So we have a lot more options out there that we haven't had in the past.

Team Chemistry: how is it?
It's very good. The guys are bonding on and off of the court. You really look for: do they do things together, how they interact in shooting before practice, in the locker room, after practice. I think we have a tight-knit group. The guys hang out, they look out after each other in terms of being on time for practice or getting to the classroom. I really like the makeup of this team, because it is an us-against-them mentality and that's what we have to have to be successful.


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