NEW ORLEANS -- Facing the impending departure of his two best players and six transfers overall, Tulane men's basketball coach Ed Conroy said Friday the Green Wave would recover from the mass exodus despite what he called the disappointing and unexpected loss of 2011-12 Conference USA freshman of the year Ricky Tarrant.
Tarrant, a point guard who averaged 15.7 points and 3.6 assists, is one of two pivotal players choosing to leave after Tulane won 20 games and reached a postseason tournament for the first time since 2000. The other is forward Josh Davis, who led Conference USA in rebounding (10.7 per game) and was fourth in scoring (17.6 points per game).
Davis, a junior who is graduating in May, was a first-team All-Conference selection. Tarrant, a sophomore, was a second-team pick a year after making the first team.
The Green Wave also has given releases to junior guard Ben Cherry, who averaged 4.4 points and also will graduate in May, along with reserve sophomore forward Lotanna Nwogbo and seldom-used freshmen RaAnthony Sanders and Marc Eddy Norelia.
Conroy and Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson addressed the rash of departures at a news conference Friday. Conroy's voice wavered as he talked about Tarrant, who started every game in his two years at Tulane and averaged a team-high 14.9 points as a freshman. He said Tarrant told him he wanted to play closer to his hometown near Birmingham, Ala., with Alabama as a possibility.
Tarrant will have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules.
"I wouldn't say I'm shocked because of the culture of college basketball," Conroy said. "There was never one day I went to practice and didn't enjoy coaching Ricky Tarrant. He worked extremely hard and he was extremely productive. I told him you are halfway to one of the most valuable degrees in the world, halfway to probably becoming the school's all-time leading scorer and you've won 35 games in two years."
Tulane finished with a winning record (20-15) for the first time since 2007-08 and advanced to the second round of the CollegeInsiders.com postseason tournament.
"It was a season of accomplishment," Conroy said. "Certainly we think there's even brighter days ahead."
That could be tough without Tarrant or Davis. No returning player averaged 5.0 points.
Conroy said Davis had been upfront about the possibility of leaving even before the season. If he graduates as expected, he can turn professional or use his final year of college eligibility as a grad student somewhere else next season.
"Josh has probably as many options as any young man in the country," Conroy said. "He is exploring all of those, including a return to Tulane."