Tulane announces eight signees to complete 2019-20 men’s basketball roster
NEW ORLEANS – Ahead of his first season as the Tulane men’s basketball head coach, Ron Hunter has finalized the team’s 2019-20 roster with the signing of seven newcomers.
The Green Wave welcome the additions of three freshmen R.J. McGee, Tylan Pope and Charlie Russell Jr., as well as four transfers Teshaun Hightower, K.J. Lawson, Nic Thomas and Christion Thompson. The crop completes the Wave’s cast of newcomers, as they join fellow incoming freshman Nobal Days who signed in November.
“I’m incredibly excited to complete our roster and get to work with our newcomers and returners,” Hunter said. “I’m so proud of my staff and thank them for helping me find these young men who are committed to our vision. Now, it’s time for us to get to work and show everyone we have something to prove.”
A 6-foot-5 guard, Hightower arrives at Tulane following two years at the University of Georgia where he played in 58 games and made 20 starts. As a sophomore in 2018-19, he appeared in 29 contests and made 17 starts while averaging 6.6 points on 63-for-157 (.401) shooting, 1.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 17.4 minutes per game. In arguably his best performance of the season, Hightower scored a career-high 18 points on 5-of-5 shooting against Texas. As a freshman in 2017-18, he was named to the SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll.
A 6-foot-8 swingman, Lawson comes to New Orleans as a graduate transfer after one season at the University of Kansas and parts of two years at American Athletic Conference rival Memphis. After redshirting the 2017-18 campaign, Lawson played in 35 of the Jayhawks’ 36 contests where he averaged 3.1 points and two rebounds in just under 10 minutes per game while shooting 39-for-86 (.453) from the field and 13-for-44 (.295) beyond the 3-point arc. He scored a season-high 15 points and made three 3s against West Virginia.
After playing in 10 games as a true freshman at Memphis in 2015-16, Lawson earned a medical redshirt and then enjoyed a breakout second year. He averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while posting nine double-doubles en route to being named The American’s 2017 Rookie of the Year. Among his best performances, he scored a career-high 28 points with 16 rebounds against Houston and grabbed a personal-best 19 boards against East Carolina.
A 6-foot-2 guard and graduate transfer, Thomas appeared in 64 games with 37 starts and scored 740 points (11.6 ppg) while making 123 3-pointers in two seasons at Norfolk State. As a senior in 2018-19, he was an All-MEAC Second Team selection and earned 2019 Boxtorow HBCU Division I All-America honors. He then made 32 starts in 34 games and led the team in scoring at 14.3 points per contest. Thomas made 86 3-pointers during the season at a 39.4 percent clip and scored a career-high 30 points in a MEAC tournament win over South Carolina State.
Thomas spent the 2016-17 season at Howard Junior College where he played in 30 games and made 20 starts while averaging 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and one assists per game. Leading the team to a 20-12 overall record and a spot in the NJCAA Region 5 Tournament, he was selected to the All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference Team. Thomas’ collegiate career began at Houston Baptist in 2015-16, where he played in just two games before receiving a hardship waiver at the end of the season.
A 6-foot-4 guard, McGee enjoyed a successful 2018-19 campaign at TaylorMade Academy in Florida, averaging 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game. He also shot 48 percent from the field and 40 percent beyond the 3-point arc. Perhaps his best performance of the season came in a 39-point effort where he also made eight 3-pointers against ECCC.
Prior to his time in Pensacola, McGee attended Kenwood High School in Chicago where he played under head coach Marlo Finner. He averaged 18 points and six rebounds per game as a senior and was named an honorable mention for 2018 all-city honors. McGee played in the 2018 South-West City All-Star Game and competed in the 2017 Chicago Elite Classic.
A 6-foot-6 forward, Pope is rated a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com from Franklinton High School in Louisiana who played under head coach Brad Oestriecher. He was a three-time District 8 AAAA First Team selection in each of his final three seasons and selected as a two-time MVP by The New Orleans Advocate. Pope averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field in 15 games with the Pro Skills team and Louisiana Elite on the 2018 Nike EYBL Circuit.
CHARLIE RUSSELL JR.
A 6-foot-7 swingman, Russell lettered four years at local Sophie B. Wright Charter School under head coach Jason Bertrand. He was a two-time All-Metro First Team selection as a junior and senior as well as a 2019 All-District 9 AAA First Team selection and co-MVP by The New Orleans Advocate. As a senior, he averaged 17.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game while leading the Warriors to a 35-4 overall record. Russell averaged 17.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and 2.5 assists per game as a junior and was also picked to the 2018 NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune All-Metro Team. He competed for Louisiana Supreme and NOLA23 on the AAU circuit.
A 6-foot-4 guard and graduate transfer, Thompson played three seasons at the University of Rhode Island, appearing in 88 games while making 16 starts. He scored 367 points and compiled 237 rebounds, 88 assists and 76 steals during his tenure with the Rams. Thompson played in all 33 games with 15 starts during the 2018-19 campaign, averaging 5.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 26.1 minutes per contest. Among his best performances, he scored a career-high 14 points and made four 3s against Bryant before tallying 12 points and a personal-best eight rebounds in a win over West Virginia.
A Gonzales, Louisiana native, Thompson attended Madison Prep as a senior and helped the team to a 34-0 record and the Louisiana 1A state championship under head coach Jeff Jones. His previous years were spent at Dutchtown High School where he averaged 21.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game as a junior.
Tulane returns five letterwinners from the 2018-19 roster, including juniors Bul Ajang, Cameron Galic and Grant Quinn, as well as sophomores Buay Koka and Kevin Zhang. Redshirt junior guard Ray Ona Embo rejoins the Green Wave after missing last season with an injury, while redshirt sophomore guard and Seton Hall transfer Jordan Walker will take the court after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.
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