Volleyball, basketball kick off recruitment season

It is the time of year when high school senior athletes everywhere sign their National Letters of Intent and commit to play their sport at the collegiate level. Tulane Athletics teams have announced several recruits coming with the class of 2021, including men’s basketball and women’s volleyball.

Last month, the women’s volleyball team announced the addition of four new signees: Markenzie Benoit, Lexie Douglas, Jenna Ibieta and Kristen Thompson. A fifth recruit, whose name is undisclosed, will also join the team for the 2017 season as a walk-on.

Head coach Jim Barnes said he feels that these players will fit in seamlessly with the current team and lead them towards success in the 2017 season.

“We lost our five seniors going out, and so basically [we’ve] got five coming in …,” Barnes said. “… They’ll help this team move to another level, just because they’re great athletes.”

Of these athletes, one stands out in particular for her success at a high level as a high school volleyball player. Douglas, an outside hitter from Plano, Texas, had a highly decorated volleyball career before committing to Tulane. Douglas is captain of the 39-6 Hebron High Hawks and the MVP of the national club volleyball tournament.

“… Next year, I think [Douglas] is the one that can have a big impact right away,” Barnes said. “We [lost] Tea [Juric], and we don’t have a lot of experience in that position. She brings quite a bit of athleticism and success, because being MVP, not only of the state, but of the nation, is pretty good.”

Barnes and his staff typically begin looking seriously into recruits like Douglas in the athletes’ freshman year of high school. The team already has players lined up for 2018 and 2019, in addition to the commits for next season.

The recruitment process begins early for the Green Wave basketball team as well. NCAA programs follow rules of recruiting where the coaches cannot contact any potential new players until their junior year in high school, but players are allowed to call them whenever they want.

Men’s basketball has secured two new recruits for the 2017-18 season. Bul Ajang and Buay Koka, both from the top-ranked Patrick School in Hillside, New Jersey, officially signed last month to join the Green Wave. Head coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr. has high hopes for these players and what they will add to the program.

“If you look at our team this year, we’re limited in size,” Dunleavy said. “Buay Koka is seven-feet tall with a seven-foot-seven wingspan and is a good rim protector and defender and can score around the low post. Bul Ajang is a six-foot-10 power forward who is a good low-post scorer, as well as he can shoot the ball from the outside.”

When recruiting new basketball players, height is a factor, but not the only asset that Dunleavy looks at to see if a player will be a good fit on his team.

“Height doesn’t win you games. Skill and ability win you games,” Dunleavy said. “The two things you need in the game of basketball is you need to be able to defend, and you need to be able to shoot, and we’re looking for guys that can put the ball in the basket.”

Tulane Athletics is constantly looking towards the future of its programs, and recruiting new players is a big part of that. Coaching staff and scouts scour the world for athletes that they think will be successful at Tulane.

“Really, we’ve been recruiting all over the world,” Dunleavy said. “We have players overseas that we have good traction with, and ultimately guys are looking favorably on the opportunity to play for somebody who’s coached the NBA and get them ready if they’re good enough.”

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