Conroy’s crew heads into the offseason: Profiling what’s next for the Wave

Mackenna Barker, Associate Sports Editor

As the 2014-15 Tulane men’s basketball season drew to a despondent close Thursday night in Connecticut with the 66-60 loss to Houston in the first round of the American Tournament, it’s time to put this season in the books and look forward to the next.

Senior guard Jay Hook and forward Tre Drye will graduate this spring. Though it’s not a large graduating class, the loss will still be felt next year. Hook, a cog in the starting guard trio, along with sophomore Jonathan Stark and junior Louis Dabney, scored an average of 11.2 points per game. He also the led the team this year with an average of 5.1 boards per game. 

Drye came as a close second on the boards, averaging 4.9 rebounds per game. He also put up an average of 4.8 points per game. Though Drye lacked the shooting touch to be a stretch four in Conroy’s system, the Wave thrived off Drye’s energy, and his value can’t be seen on a stat sheet. (the Hullsports staff will miss you The Energizer Bunny

With the two combined, the Wave will need to replace 28 percent of the Wave’s total rebounds and 25 percent of its scoring output.

This is a palpable loss, but of course, the underclassmen and incoming class must and can step up to fill their shoes.

Even with the loss of Hook, Tulane has no shortage of guards, and very versatile ones. Dabney, who ranked No. 7 in scoring in the AAC, will lead the squad next year along with his counterpart Stark. The bench is still intact. Redshirt sophomore guard Kajon Mack will come back more explosive, as he returned from a left ankle injury that sidelined him the previous season, and freshman guard Keith Pickney and sophomore guard Cameron Reynolds bring good energy when they check in. 

As the Wave’s need for guards is not immense right now, head coach Ed Conroy’s didn’t focus heavily on this spot in recruiting for next season, though he might have found the perfect replacement for the 39 percent three-point shooting Hook.

Kain Harris, a 6-4 and 210 lb guard from Chicago earned a three star rating by ESPN as well as ranked as one of the top 20 two-guards in Illinois. Harris had offers from several other schools, including Minnesota and West Virginia, but decided to commit to Tulane on Dec. 19.

Hook’s elite shooting helped the Wave space the floor, but his inability to consistently put the ball on the floor and take opponents off the dribble limited the offense, and put a lot of pressure on Dabney and Stark to carry the load.

Athletic with scoring ability from outside the arch, and a sturdy, big-bodied frame that’s strong enough to score and defend well inside, Harris will be a welcome addition. 

In the last couple years, Conroy put his focus on developing Tulane’s front court. Sophomore forwards Payton Henson and Josh Hearlihy were prized recruits two years ago, and freshman center Dylan Osetowski has emerged as a pleasantly surprising menace on the court. But the group hasn’t consistently produced yet, and the incoming crop of athletic recruits could radically shake up the lineup. 

Conroy continues to build his big-men rotation with the three other recruits for 2015, and stuck close to home with two of them.

Maxwell Starwood, a 6-5 180 lb power forward out of Baton Rouge, who ESPN ranks as the No. 9 top recruit in the state of Louisiana, Starwood will serve well at the four spot as a fitting replacement for Drye. Scouts credit his versatile ability to space the floor when playing off the ball.  

“Starwood is a long and lean athlete that runs the floor extremely well,” one ESPN scouting report said. “He can finish on the break with his quickness to the basket. Starwood possess good hands that allow him to catch tough post feeds and passes on the move.” 

Also from Louisiana, Tulane picked up 6-9 230 lb New Orleans native, Blake Paul. The center is ranked in the top 50 big men in America by ESPN, as well as the No. 5 best player in the state and the No. 41 best prospect in the class of 2015. He participated in the Ty Lawson and Victor Oladipo All-American camps last summer.

Joining Harris, Starwood and Paul in the class of 2015 is center Taron Oliver. A 6-9, 250 lb Washington D.C. native, Oliver ranks as the top recruit in D.C. and rated as a top 50 big man in America by ESPN. He played with the prestigious Nike Team Takeover program and also took part in the Ty Lawson and Victor Oladipo All-American camps last summer.

“Oliver is a low post player with excellent size,” According to another ESPN scouting report. “He runs the floor pretty well and can score with his back to the basket. Oliver has excellent hands, footwork, feel, touch and patience around the rim.”

The incoming class of 2015 will provide a much needed depth to the four and five positions, as well as much needed athleticism to compete in the AAC. Though the 2014-15 season didn’t finish as well as it started, a tested returning class coupled with a promising incoming freshman class may propel the Wave to a far better season next year.

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