Tulane’s freshman class will have one less player this season, as one of the program’s signees has decided not to enroll for personal reasons.
Monday the school announced that 6-foot-6 small forward Kipper Nichols has been released from the National Letter of Intent he signed in the spring. The Ohio native was supposed to be part of a recruiting class that boasted a total of seven newcomers, including grad student Jernard Jarreau (Washington), but “personal and family reasons” ultimately led to Nichols requesting the release and Tulane granting it.
“Due to personal and family reasons and after multiple discussions with Kipper and his mother, Tanicia Porter, we are granting this request,” Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson said in the release. “We supported Kipper being close to his family during a difficult time this summer and continue to support him for the same reasons in honoring this request now.”
The Green Wave, who finished their debut season in the American Athletic Conference with a record of 15-16 (6-12 American), have to account for the loss of two of their top three scorers in Jay Hook and Jonathan Stark. However, Tulane’s leading scorer from last season (Louis Dabney) returns, and LSU transfer Malik Morgan will be eligible after sitting out all of last season.
As the Tulane Green Wave prepare for their first season as a member of the American Athletic Conference, head coach Ed Conroy won’t have to worry too much about experience when it comes to his roster. The team’s top five scorers, led by guards Louis Dabney, Jonathan Stark and Jay Hook, and top five rebounders all return from last year’s 17-17 (8-8 Conference USA) team.
But even with the returning production the Green Wave were in need of additional depth in the front court, and on Thursday they received good news regarding one of their newcomers.
6-foot-10 center Aaron Liberman, who began his college career at Northwestern, has been cleared to play immediately according to Tammy Nunez of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. After redshirting in 2012-13 Liberman played sparingly under Chris Collins last season, seeing action in ten games and playing a total of nine minutes. Liberman won’t be a dominant force for Tulane, but he’ll join fellow Californians Stanley Roberts Jr. and Dylan Osetkowski in providing Tulane with additional bodies in the paint.
Tulane’s top two returning rebounders are Tre Drye and Jay Hook, with the 6-foot-6 Drye averaging 7.6 rebounds per game in 2013-14 and Hook corralling 5.4 boards per contest.
After leading Tulane to consecutive postseason appearances and winning 65 games in his four seasons at the helm, head coach Ed Conroy has been rewarded with a contract extension through 2017. The news was announced by the school Friday evening.
“I’m excited to be at Tulane as we continue to build the program,” Conroy said in the release. “I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made in the first four seasons and look forward to what we can do in the future.
“Having the opportunity to guide this program during the transition into the American Athletic Conference is something I look forward to and am very excited about what lies ahead.”
The next step for Tulane will be an important one, as the program makes the move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference. While some of their new conference mates will be familiar given the number of schools that were in C-USA, they’ll also be competing with the likes of UConn and Cincinnati. And some of those programs they shared time with in Conference USA are improving, most notably SMU.
Tulane’s won a total of 37 games in Conroy’s last two seasons, including the program’s first 20-win season in more than a decade back in 2012-13. Prior to that season the last time Tulane won 20 games or more was back in 1999-2000, when Perry Clark was in charge.
The Green Wave will return their top three scorers from last season, guards Louis Dabney (15.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg), Jay Hook (13.9, 5.1) and Jonathan Stark (14.5, 2.6, 4.2). Tulane will also return its leading rebounder in forward Trevante Drye, who grabbed 7.6 caroms per contest in 2013-14.