Jay Hook and Tre Drye have not won as much as they wanted since they joined the Tulane men’s basketball team, but that they’re still around is a source of pride for both of them.
When Tulane (14-14, 5-11 American Athletic) plays Houston (10-18, 2-14) in a matchup of struggling teams Wednesday at Devlin Fieldhouse, Hook and Drye will be on the floor for Senior Night with a sense of accomplishment — and survival.
After two seasons as a benchwarmer, Hook, from Waco, Texas, turned into one of the best 3-point shooters in Tulane history, starting all but one game in the past two years.
Drye, from Baton Rouge’s Glen Oaks High, did the dirty work. He was a key reserve in his first year and a regular starter the next three despite being shorter than almost any player he faced in the post.
Together, they are the first accomplished players to spend four seasons with fifth-year coach Ed Conroy, sticking around when six teammates departed two years ago. Kevin Thomas, part of Conroy’s initial recruiting class, graduated last year after playing sparingly for most of his career.
“Tre and I were just talking about our resiliency,” Hook said Monday. “We’re tough-minded kids that didn’t really give up. We are going to take that for the rest of our lives. I’m just glad that we’re still here.”
They won’t leave empty-handed. Tulane advanced to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament in 2012-13 and made the College Basketball Invitational in 2013-14 after sitting out the postseason for more than a decade.
Real team success, though, proved out of their reach. Hook and Drye never finished with a winning conference record, and the Green Wave had to start over after leading scorers Josh Davis and Ricky Tarrant led an exodus in the spring of 2013, right after the school’s first 20-win season in 13 years.
“It was crazy,” Drye said. “I’d never seen anything like it, losing five or six guys. I couldn’t sense it at all. I came in with all those guys, we got better and then, boom, it just happened.”
Thanks in large part to Hook and Drye, the program did not implode.
Hook set a school record with 83 3-pointers last season, averaging 13.9 points as Tulane went 17-17 (8-8 in Conference USA). His 3-point percentage of .472 was in the top five nationally.
Drye led the team with 260 rebounds, providing toughness while contributing 6.9 points per game.
Their numbers aren’t quite as high this year, but the competition in the American Athletic Conference has been stiffer. Hook is averaging 11.0 points, hitting 38.1 percent of his 3s. Drye is averaging 5.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.
“When we recruited them, we wanted to lay a foundation for future success, and they’ve been committed to try to build the program,” Conroy said. “They’ve been outstanding on and off the court. They both are the type of people that you are really proud to have represent Tulane and Tulane basketball.”
Hook is third on the Wave’s all-time 3-point list with 178 — 15 behind Jerald Honeycutt for second place — despite hitting only 34 in his first two years. He said his favorite 3 was a long-distance shot last year that broke a tie with 1.1 seconds left against Marshall at Devlin. He also made a 25-foot 3 that finished off Mississippi State this December.
“Obviously people know me for my 3-pointers,” he said. “But hopefully they will remember me as always picking up my teammates and having a lot of positive energy.”
Drye needed energy just to cope with his nightly size disadvantage. Listed generously at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, he has banged inside with opponents for four years, frequently coming up short on his shots because he could not get the ball over them.
That issue has been exacerbated against the AAC’s athletic post defenders. After registering a double-double against UCF on Feb. 19, Drye has not made a field goal in his past three games, going 0-for-9.
“Sometimes the result when they block the shot is depressing, but it’s fun battling with those bigger guys,” he said. “I go so hard, and everyone respects it. Win or lose, they come up to me and say, ‘Good game.’ Just give me some more height, and I’d be an All-American.”