Nearing the end of another lost season, Tulane guard Louis Dabney is doing his best to keep a highly rated group of freshmen together.
He has watched 12 scholarship players leave early since he joined the men’s basketball team in 2012-13, and as the lone senior still playing, he can impart words of wisdom about overcoming frustration to newcomers Melvin Frazier, Von Julien, Kain Harris, Blake Paul and Taron Oliver.
That’s where he can help the most since he is running out of time to elevate Tulane (10-18, 3-12 American Athletic Conference) from the cellar. The Green Wave, tied for last with East Carolina, faces conference co-leader SMU (23-4, 11-4) in Dallas on Sunday afternoon.
“When they get down and get their feelings hurt, I just try to let them know I’ve been where you’ve been,” Dabney said. “I’ve been on the bench sitting there watching guys in front of me that I felt I was better than. You just have to know that if you work as hard you can every day, your talent is going to come out and they won’t have any choice but to start you.”
Point guard Jonathan Stark transferred to Murray State after last year despite starting for two years, and teammate Peyton Henson went to Vermont even though he was a regular contributor. Ricky Tarrant (Alabama) and Josh Davis (San Diego State) left for higher-profile programs after 2012-13 as full-time starters.
The rest of the departing players were backups who for a variety of reasons did not heed Dabney’s advice.
Forward Mikael Herbert returned to Finland after an injury-plagued freshman year in 2013-14 when he played 39 minutes. He is averaging 10.9 points and 4.5 rebounds for a club team this year.
Center Ray Barreno, who played seven times for a total of 20 minutes in 2013-14, resurfaced at New Mexico Junior College. He averaged a paltry 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds before transferring to Portland, where his scoring average is a meager 3.7.
Post player Stanley Roberts Jr. never left the bench last season before being granted a medical hardship that ended his career before it started.
Swingman Josh Hearlihy had two forgettable years, averaging 0.5 points and 1.4 points, before transferring to Vermont after last season.
Others lost their patience or felt they weren’t the right fit.
Keith Pinckney left last offseason even though he would have been the only returning point guard on the roster with the departure of Stark. After a rough debut (1.8 ppg, 19 turnovers to seven assists) at Tulane, he has not exactly lit it up at Northwest Florida State Junior College, averaging 4.9 points.
Big post player Lotanna Nwogbo averaged 2.6 points as a freshman in 2011-12 and 1.1 points as a sophomore before transferring to Longwood, a little-known Division I school in the Big South. He is averaging a team-high 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds as a fifth-year senior, but the Lancers are 8-22.
Guard RaAnthony Sanders played 17 minutes in 2012-13. He transferred to Albany, earning American East third-team All-Conference honors last year and averaging 11.8 points this season for a 23-7 team.
Marc Eddy Norelia played 16 minutes as a freshman in 2012-13 behind first-team All-Conference USA power forward Josh Davis before bolting. He wound up at Florida Gulf Coast in his home state and is averaging 17.1 points and 9.0 rebounds this year, although he managed just 16 points combined against Florida, Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech, the three best teams he faced.
“I tried to talk to him and let him know his time was coming,” Dabney said. “He just really didn’t want to wait for it.”
It is a trend Conroy does not expect to be reversed in college basketball. He pointed to the number of times players move around in high school now: Harris, Paul and Oliver all transferred before their senior years.
“That has become a way of life, and part of it I’m not necessarily opposed to,” he said. “Everybody has to do what they feel is in their best interests, and these days there are a lot of options out there.”
Still, the roster churn forced Tulane to start over once again this offseason. Dabney feels it took too long for players to figure out what they were supposed to do, leading to a dismal record that put Conroy’s job status is serious jeopardy.
“We’re playing for pride,” Dabney said. “I don’t want to end up last in the conference. These next few games we have to show everybody what we can do and we’re not the team they depicted us to be.”