For a talented, unsigned high school basketball senior who had be longing for just one opportunity to showcase his talents at the next level, Charlie Russell’s offer to Tulane all came together rather quickly.
The Sophie B. Wright senior, who averaged a double-double this year for a team that went 29-3 in the regular season while playing one of the toughest schedules in the state, found himself entering some last-minute AAU tournaments while preparing to for graduation, hoping someone might finally notice while starting to resign to the fact that a prep school could be his best route to eventually reach the next level.
But with the recent shakeup with the Tulane men’s basketball team, including the hiring of former Georgia State coach Ron Hunter in March, along with his new coaching staff, the Green Wave was getting a late start on the last-minute recruiting trail. Coincidentally, Tulane assistant Kevin Johnson, who knew of Russell from his time with UL, got wind that the Warriors prodigy was still looking for a Division I offer.
Just last week, he alerted Hunter, who went to Atlanta to watch Russell play in a tournament for unsigned seniors over the weekend. By Wednesday evening, the senior was announcing on Twitter his plans to become the second New Orleans-area player on the Green Wave roster for the 2019-20 season, along with St. Augustine graduate and the team’s leading scorer this past year, Caleb Daniels.
“I’m just really excited to play with this new team and set of coaches,” Russell said. “And I’m looking forward to getting a chance to play so close to home with family and friends that can come watch.
“Having to wait so long, it makes it that much more special.”
For a team that went 4-27 a year ago and saw plenty of attrition this offseason, Russell might make an early impact. He brings a versatile skill set and a frame at 6-foot-7 that can guard four positions and has room to put on some more muscle to add to his explosiveness.
In Sophie B. Wright coach Jason Bertrand’s mind, Hunter and Tulane are getting a steal in someone he considers, biased as he may be, one of the best players in the state after averaging 17.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this season as a two-time All-Metro selection.
“They needed people to come in and do things similar to what the football team has been doing, building a gate around the local area,” he said. “Charlie deserved an opportunity and a chance to stay home and rep his city.
“Once coach Johnson came to New Orleans, he made Charlie a big-time priority.”
Along with Russell, several other top athletes in the New Orleans area announced and made official their college decisions just a few days before they wrapped up their senior school years. Two-time all-state guard Cabria Lewis headlined a group of five athletes who signed their national letters of intent last Thursday, as the two-time All-Metro selection prepares to head to Fort Myers, Florida, to play for Florida SouthWestern State College.
At Brother Martin, 13 student-athletes signed in a ceremony on Wednesday, including senior All-Metro first team wrestling Daniel Croy, who is headed to the Colorado School of Mines; All-Metro second team boys soccer player Zachary Stolberg, who will be playing for Rose Hulman Institute of Technology; talented wrestling and football player Mack Brown, who will focus on football at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy; and Jake Dickinson, whose baseball season is still going on and who is headed to play at Millsaps College.
At Hannan, Division III state champion wrestler Deioniso Talbot signed to wrestle for Southeastern University (Fla.), while Northlake Christian’s Kara Lewis, a second team All-Metro girls soccer player, is headed to North Central University (Minn.) and Lakeshore first team All-Metro boys soccer player James-Preston Furman signed with Sewanee.
After recently decommitting from the program, Lakeshore All-Metro boys basketball player Hunter Dean decided to rejoin the Southern Mississippi recruiting class and sign with the Golden Eagles. Fontainebleau distance runner Marshall Buhler, who still has one more meet left in his high school career with Saturday’s Class 5A state meet, signed with LSU, where he hopes to contend for 1,600-and and 3,200-meter state title.s