It’s a been a topsy-turvy week for point guards at Tulane.
The Green Wave landed its third three-star prospect of the late signing period Wednesday morning, when Riverside High School’s Von Julien publicly pledged to Tulane.
But his arrival was sandwiched between the news that Tulane’s two incumbent point guards intend to transfer, including Wednesday’s announcement by two-year starter Jonathan Stark.
“It’s been a great (two) years for me here at Tulane,” he tweeted. “I want to thank Coach (Ed) Conroy, the staff, the fans and university for the great experience but I will be taking my talents elsewhere next year.”
The rising junior averaged 10.3 points last season and helped Tulane to two of its biggest wins, hitting a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against Cincinnati and scoring 22 points in Tulane’s first win at Memphis since the 1990s.
Stark also started 34 games as a true freshman, scoring 14.5 points and dishing 4.2 assists per game. He was named a freshman All-American by CollegeInsider.com and played a brutal 37.2 minutes per game.
A source close to the situation told The Advocate the parting was a mutual understanding between Stark and the program; he is expected to transfer to another Division I school.
“I think it’s the nature of college basketball right now with so many guys leaving, and I don’t necessarily like that aspect,” Conroy said. “It’s disconcerting there are so many transfers and I think there were over 700 of them last year. Hopefully it will slow down in the future, but I don’t really see it happening.
“We just have to be prepared all of the time to get ourselves better because people have the right to do what they feel is in their best interest, even if you don’t like it. We just have to always be bringing in other elite talent and that part of our program has taken a major step forward this spring.”
On Tuesday, backup point guard Keith Pinckney announced he was leaving the program and has been granted his release. He logged 9.4 minutes per game last season.
Julien, who held an array of scholarship offers from both football and basketball programs, said he’s signing Thursday exclusively with Tulane’s basketball program and does not intend to play receiver for the Green Wave football program, despite an offer from coach Curtis Johnson.
He joins fellow 247Sports.com’s composite three-star prospects Kain Harris and Kipper Nichols in joining Tulane’s basketball program this week, making up the highest-rated signing class in nearly 20 years.
“I saw that two of the guards had left, so I saw the opportunity right there,” Julien said. “The things that Coach Conroy is trying to do next year, with the high tempo and adding (LSU transfer) Malik Morgan along with the other recruits, there’s a big chance to step in and make an impact. I was actually going to visit another school but, when I saw the opportunity, I just took it.”
Julien said Conroy reached out to him two weeks ago to explain that what appeared to be a stacked depth chart at point guard was potentially thinning out. It caught his attention and, when it opened up this week, Julien said he grew comfortable with Conroy (who spearheaded the recruitment himself) and it prompted him to sign.
“He called me about two weeks ago to ask if I was interested if a spot opened up,” Julien said. “I told him I was definitely interested.”
So, after two point guards left and one entered, Conroy said the Green Wave will unveil a new look in the backcourt when the 2015-16 season opens in November.
“We are really excited about the core we have here and what we are adding to it,” Conroy said. “I think we still have the foundation and identity there. We are able to recruit in a strategic way that was brought in for a specific reason and not just going out and getting players.
“We can now play more up-tempo and faster than we’ve played since I’ve been here but at the same time have more depth and athleticism to go with it. If we add any more pieces to the roster, it will be guys who complement the ones we have in place, who I think are ready to win now.”
Football kickoff announced
Tulane announced that its season-opening football game against Duke will kick off at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3 in Yulman Stadium.
The game will be broadcast by the CBS Sports Network as part of an opening night doubleheader on the network, following a 5 p.m. broadcast of Florida International at Central Florida.