AAC Tulane Memphis Basketball

Tulane head coach Ron Hunter questions an officia during first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Memphis in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) 

After a 40-point loss to Memphis in the American Athletic Conference tournament semifinals ended Tulane’s best season since 1999-2000, men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter said enough of his top players would be back to ensure a successful follow-up.

Despite two-time All-AAC pick Jalen Cook’s subsequent decision to return to LSU after two years with the Green Wave, Hunter appears to have backed up his declaration with a 2023-24 roster that features three returning stalwarts and four transfers in what will be a new-look AAC. Gone are kingpin Houston along with Cincinnati and Central Florida. In are surprise Final Four participant Florida Atlantic, UAB, North Texas, Texas-San Antonio, UNC-Charlotte and Rice to create a 14-team league.

Tulane, which finished fourth in 2021-22 and third this past year, clearly will not be in rebuilding mode. Guard Jaylen Forbes, a two-time second-team all-league pick, and forward Kevin Cross, twice a third-team selection, pulled their names out of the NBA draft before the deadline and will return for a COVID-permitted fifth college season. Senior Sion James will join them.

Forbes averaged 18.5 points and 5.0 rebounds last year, scoring in double figures in all but two games.

The versatile Cross averaged 14.8 points, a team-high 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Late in games, the offense often ran through him as the primary decision-maker.

The 6-foot-5 James averaged an AAC-high 37.1 minutes, 9.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He also operated as the Wave’s primary post defender during conference play because of his sturdy body.

The veteran trio is the core of a returning group that includes guard Collin Holloway (6.2 points); center Percy Daniels, a touted signee who played sparingly as a freshman; and fifth-year forward Tre’ Williams (1.9 points). In addition to Cook, who averaged a team-best 19.9 points and 4.9 assists, the Wave lost Tylan Pope (6.5 points, 4.4 rebounds), Jadan Coleman (4.4 points), reserve big men Nobal Days, Oton Jankovic and, likely, senior guard R.J. McGee. Although nothing has been announced, sources indicated McGee decided he needed to be closer to his family in Chicago after the deaths of his father and two other relatives last season.

Former 4-star recruit Gregg Glenn, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward whom Rivals.com ranked the No. 96 overall prospect out of high school, headlines the transfer portal additions. He appeared in only four games as a freshman for Michigan but will be one of the first top-100-rated players at Tulane since Jerrold Honeycutt in the 1990s.

Second-year guards Kolby King (St. John’s) and Asher Woods (VMI) and forward Jordan Wood (Howard) are the other transfer additions.

King (6-2) averaged 7.7 minutes and 1.7 points in 26 games as a freshman, scoring a season-high eight points in an overtime Big East tournament loss to regular-season champion Marquette. He was labeled a defensive pest coming out of Fort Lauderdale Pembroke Pines Charter.

Woods (6-3) averaged 14.4 points and 4.2 rebounds for VMI, scoring 20 or more seven times. VMI went 7-25 (2-16 in the Southern Conference) last year, and he shot 38.7% overall and 31.6% from 3-point range.

Wood, a 6-9 forward who emerged as a starter at Howard in his third year, averaged 8.6 points and 3.7 rebounds while finishing second on the team with 64 3-pointers. He scored 19 points twice but shot just 3 of 19 in the final three games as the Bisons won the MEAC tournament and lost to Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Mier Panoam, a 3-star 6-2 point guard from Norcross, Georgia, who is the highest rated freshman Hunter has signed, and freshman forward Spencer Elliot round out the scholarship roster.