When Jernard Jarreau returned to New Orleans as a graduate student after an injury-plagued career at Washington, Tulane was not sure what it was getting.
He has turned out to be a huge bonus.
Jarreau, a 6-foot-10 center from McDonogh 35, is averaging 8.9 points and 5.7 rebounds through nine games as the Green Wave (5-4) gets ready for Prairie View (0-8) on Monday night at Devlin Fieldhouse. Both are well above his previous career-best totals, and he has shown little signs of the torn ACL that sidelined him for all but two minutes of 2013-14, and the arthroscopic knee surgery that ended his 2014-15 season in January.
“Jernard’s a big asset,” starting point guard Malik Morgan said. “He’s real skilled. He knows when to put the ball on the floor. He’s got a nice shot. We need him to stay on that level mentally and focus to be able to play that way the whole time.”
Jarreau sees the floor well for a big man, the result of a late growth spurt. At McDonogh 35, he grew from 6-feet-3 as a freshman to 6-9 as a senior, starting his career in the backcourt before moving inside.
His awareness has made everyone on the roster better around him. While past Tulane post players were liabilities with the ball in their hands, Jarreau is liable to throw a perfect alley-oop pass.
“I played guard my entire freshman year of high school, so that’s something I’ll always have in my game,” he said. “It took longer for me to match players’ physicality from the frontline standpoint and mature and gain weight.”
He’s done that well, too. His eight blocks are second on the team to freshman Blake Paul’s nine, giving Tulane an element that was totally absent a year ago when no one blocked more than 12 shots in 31 games.
The last time Tulane entertained a Southwestern Athletic Conference team, Jarreau scored a career-high 16 points in a season-opening overtime defeat to Alabama A&M. The Wave is 0-2 against the SWAC, also losing at Southern, but Prairie View has dropped seven of its eight games by 13 or more points.
“We need a better focus of what we’re trying to do on each and every possession,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “A couple of bad shots and a couple of bad turnovers and you allow them back in the game.”