Higgins headed to Top 28 in Marshall Jackson’s final season as coach _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANDREA MABRY -- Melvin Frazier (35) of Higgins eyes the ball during the game against Cox at Higgins Tuesday night, January 7, 2013.

A month ago, Higgins High basketball star Melvin Frazier listed Arkansas, Oklahoma, LSU and Oklahoma State as his final four schools.

Instead, he signed with Tulane on Thursday, providing yet another coup for coach Ed Conroy in what has become by far the highest ranked recruiting class of his tenure.

Frazier, a 6-foot-5 prospect from Marrero, is the sixth player in Tulane’s 2015-16 signing class, and all of them are rated three stars or higher by at least one recruiting service. ESPN.com lists Frazier as a four-star recruit, ranking him as the third best prospect in Louisiana, with Rivals.com and 247Sports.com.

“Tulane is a great university,” Frazier said in a text on Thursday evening. “I always watched Tulane as a kid.”

Frazier, whose primary recruiter was assistant coach Quannas White, joins point guard Von Julien from nearby Riverside Academy and power forward Blake Paul from Landry-Walker as local players in Tulane’s incoming class. The Green Wave also signed shooting guard Kain Harris from Chicago, center Taron Oliver from Rockville, Maryland., and small forward Kipper Nicholls from Lakewood, Ohio.

“Melvin is a dynamic finisher at the rim with a high basketball motor, Tulane coach Ed Conroy said in a university-issued release. “He has a unique ability to affect winning with his rebounding, defense and energy. His talent and versatility will be a valuable addition to our program.”

Frazier added LSU was his No. 2 choice, but did not elaborate on the specific reasons Tulane moved from out of his top four to No. 1. The Green Wave had its first losing record in three years this past season, dropping 11 of its last 13 games to finish 15-16 overall and 6-12 in its new league, the American Athletic Conference. Four scholarship players have left the team since the end of season, including starting point guard Jonathan Stark, backup point guard Keith Pinckney and reserve forwards Payton Henson and Josh Hearlihy.

Still, the slump and the defections have not slowed down Conroy’s recruiting momentum. After signing only one New Orleans area freshman in his first five classes — rising senior Louis Dabney from Riverside — he has three highly regarded local players this year alone.

LSU transfer Malik Morgan, a four-star recruit when he signed with the Tigers out of John Curtis, also will become eligible in the fall after practicing with the Wave last season.

“The (high rating of his fellow newcomers) is very important,” Frazier texted. “I am looking forward to playing with the new incoming players as well as the players that are here at Tulane already.”

Frazier led Higgins on a surprising run to the Class 5A state semifinals as a senior, averaging 17.3 points and 8.6 rebounds, while earning first-team All-State honors and sending out retiring veteran coach Marshall Jackson on a high note. Frazier scored a game-high 20 points as Higgins, a No. 20 seed, beat No. 5 seed Ouachita in double overtime in the quarterfinals. He scored 12 in the semifinals, when the Hurricanes led top-seed Natchitoches Central 43-37 with 2:40 left before falling 49-43.

Considered an outstanding defender, Frazier admitted he needed to improve his ball handling. His outside shot is a work in progress, too, but his aggressiveness at both ends of the floor made him attractive to numerous programs.

“I’m already focusing on getting better and being a team player and a high achiever,” he texted. “I’m in the gym right now working.”