Tulane basketball shoots for success

Harrison Simon, Sports Editor

Tulane basketball
Tulane men’s basketball head coach Ron Hunter. (Parker Waters | Tulane Athletics)

While most Tulane students went home for the extended winter break, many student-athletes stayed on campus as their seasons are now in full swing. After the cancellation of last season’s March Madness tournament, as well as a one-of-a-kind college football season rife with postponements, cancellations, and COVID-19 positive players, the 2020-21 basketball season for both the men’s and women’s teams was in serious doubt. Despite all of this, the NCAA has been able to put together a successful basketball season thus far, and Tulane basketball is making sure to make this year worth its while.

The men’s team, led by second-year coach Ron Hunter, is one of the youngest teams not just in the American Athletic Conference but in the entire NCAA. Returning just six players and less than 20% of last year’s production, this will be a crucial year for the team, even if the quality play doesn’t always result in a tally in the win column. Although not as top-heavy as last year, the AAC is an underrated conference and will likely field two or three teams in this year’s tournament. The Green Wave started the season off with four non-conference wins, but they have struggled since opening conference play. 

Tulane opened the conference schedule by losing 80-74 to The University of Memphis. The team now sits at 6-4 (1-4 in conference) with its next game on the road against The University of Tulsa (the game against Southern Methodist University was canceled due to contact tracing among student athletes). Although the Green Wave sits towards the bottom of the conference standings, look for redshirt junior guard Jordan Walker, who played in all 30 of the team’s games last year, to pace the team both as a scorer and a vocal leader. Expectations are also high for transfers Gabe Watson (junior, The University of Southern Mississippi), Jaylen Forbes (sophomore, The University of Alabama), and Kevin Cross (sophomore, University of Nebraska-Lincoln).

The Tulane women’s team situation coming into this season was nearly the opposite of the men’s team: the Olive and Blue are returning 89.3% of its scoring and more than 95% of its rebounding. Last season was promising for the team, with the Wave rallying off six straight wins to open conference play before cooling down and finishing a respectable 14-17 (8-8 in conference) on the season, good enough for fifth in the conference. The team is this year led by seniors Krystal Freeman and Arsula Clark. Freeman, a unanimous preseason First Team All-AAC selection, averaged 15.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, with Clark contributing 12.3 points per game en route to a second-team All-AAC selection. 

Beyond these two seniors, head coach Lisa Stockton, who is returning for her 27th season with Tulane basketball, will have plenty of supporting talent to work with. The team will be returning sharpshooting senior Sierra Cheatham, who led the Green Wave with 46 threes last year. An increase in playing time is also expected for juniors Dynah Jones, the reigning AAC Sixth Player of the Year, and Mia Heide, a dominant presence in the paint and on the boards.

The women’s team currently sits fifth in the AAC with a record of 8-4 (4-3 in conference). Freeman, 14.4 PPG, and 8.7 RPG) and Arsula (13.5 PPG, 1.6 SPG) are picking up right where they left off last season. The most surprising revelation for the team has been the emergence of freshman Jerkalia Jordan, who just won her fourth AAC Freshman of the Week honor of the season.

For fans of college hoops, make sure to keep up with Tulane basketball all season long, as both the men’s and women’s teams seek to build momentum heading into the second half of their schedules.