‘Slim’: New Orleans’ resident big man

Graduate student forward Jernard Jarreau attempts a shot as a SMU player tries to block him in the Tulane 64-45 loss against SMU on Jan. 17 in Devlin Fieldhouse. 

Alec Eskind, Contributing Reporter

Jernard “Slim” Jarreau is your typical 23-year-old Tulane graduate student in a lot of ways.

Jarreau loves Beyonce and Air Jordans. He enjoys only having to go to class once a week and goes through each passing day flip-flopping between feeling like an accomplished collegian and a freshman all over again. Adjusting on the fly to a different school from his undergrad days, but that’s about where the similarities end.

With a 6-foot-10, 235-pound frame, Jarreau is not easily missed and has taken a leading role in resurrecting a Tulane basketball program that hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament since 1995. In addition to never making it to the big dance, Tulane was picked to finish last in the American Athletic Conference by coaches for the second consecutive year.

“Jarreau brings a lot to the table from a basketball ability standpoint,” head coach Ed Conroy said. “He’s a guy that we expect to come through in those tough moments.”

Not many could be more prepared to face the ups and downs of this season than Jarreau. His basketball career has been marred with injury, losing his junior season in high school to a broken wrist, his sophomore campaign at Washington to a torn ACL — which happened just 60 seconds into the first game of the season. Last season, just as the Huskies were entering a critical point in their season, he was sidelined again to another knee injury.

“Injuries are a part of the game,” Jarreau said. “I think it just made me tougher as a man and a basketball player.”

Jarreau’s ability to handle adversity doesn’t just stem from his injury history, however. A native of New Orleans, Jarreau’s upbringing in New Orleans East was not easy, especially during his seventh-grade year, when Hurricane Katrina’s imposing waters came ashore in the Big Easy.

Jarreau and his family evacuated to Mobile, Alabama to stay with extended family, watching from a TV set as their hometown was attacked by the disaster.

The oldest of five, Jarreau is close with his family and credits them with keeping him motivated and providing a support system throughout his life and basketball career.

“I have such a big family and we’re all so close with one another and we help each other out,” Jarreau said. “My family was the ones that kept me driven.”

Jarreau’s return to his home city was heavily influenced by the opportunity to play in front of his family, who have been a constant presence at Devlin Fieldhouse.

With seven newcomers joining this year’s Tulane squad, along with the departure of nine members of last year’s team forcing young players into key roles. Early season struggles have defined the season so far, but Jarreau’s presence has helped the team weather the storm and better their level of play.

“It’s a marathon, especially in college basketball,” Jarreau said. “Every team has their highs and lows. When you hit adversity, it just depends on all the guys and how they react to it.”

Jarreau speaks with utmost credibility when he talks, as he’s learned these lessons from some of the best. Having played for Coach Lorenzo Romar and with NBA draftees C.J. Wilcox, Tony Wroten and Robert Upshaw while at the University of Washington, Jarreau understands what it takes to compete as the Division I level on a consistent basis.

“Those guys taught me how to be competitive,” Jarreau said. “They went hard every day in practice. It was like a war on the court.”

Jarreau provides frontcourt depth, rebounding and shot-blocking ability, averaging 5.6 rebounds per game along with 1.8 blocks. Additionally, Jarreau and senior Louis Dabney create that competitive environment every day in practice, a huge asset that Jarreau offers this year’s iteration of the Green Wave, and one that will continue to reveal itself more and more as the season progresses.

“We lead by example,” Dabney said. “We thrive on playing hard and showing the young guys that even when you’re not doing things, playing hard can change it and help you in this game.”

While Jarreau brings a fiery competitiveness to the floor, his laid-back nature, top-flight experience and desire bring a winning college basketball program to his home city have made him a unique addition to the Wave this season.

“It feels awesome [being back in front of my family],” Jarreau said. “I feel like a little kid again.”