Sep 6, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - As the first month of the fall semester continues to roll along, the freshmen around Tulane's uptown campus are beginning to not only find their way around but also their rhythm of adjusting to life as a college student.
For a trio of newcomers - Paije Hall, Courtnie Latham and Leslie Vorpahl - that transition includes figuring out the balance of academics and athletics as the three student athletes join the Tulane women's basketball team for the 2013-14 season. And while practice does not officially start until Sept. 29, the freshmen have participated in individual drills and head coach Lisa Stockton likes what she has seen so far.
"I love the energy and just the basketball knowledge that these three come in with," Stockton said. "They're all fundamentally sound, and bring something different. We recruited them to come here and really make an impact, and I really think they can."
With Hall slated to man a spot in the frontcourt while Latham and Vorpahl penciled in at the two-guard and point guard, respectively, the trio will each have different responsibilities once the season officially tips offs. The threesome, however, each share qualities that attracted Stockton and her staff to bring the former high school standouts into the fold.
One obvious shared quality is a high-level skill set on the hardwood that is reflected in the prep honors each received. All three newbies claimed all-state honors as a senior and Vorpahl earned the distinction in each of her final two seasons at Winston Churchill High in San Antonio, Texas. In addition, she was a two-time San Antonio Express-NewsPlayer of the Year and claimed all-area and all-region honors all three of her varsity season for the Chargers.
Hall earned all-district recognition in each of her final three prep seasons at St. Thomas More High in Lafayette, La., twice claimed All-Acadiana honors and was selected to play in the Louisiana High School Coaches Association All-Star Game. Latham, meanwhile, is a four-time all-district honoree, claimed all-region honors in each of her final three prep campaigns and was named co-MVP of her district as a senior at Clear Spring High in Houston.
In addition to individual success, the Green Wave freshmen are used to winning as trio helped their respective teams to a combined 314-60 overall record (.839) with 12 total trips to the playoffs. Hall helped guide St. Thomas More to three undefeated district titles, state championships as a sophomore and junior and a state runner-up showing as a senior. Latham was a key figure in Clear Spring's three straight 5A Region III District 12 titles and trips to the region semifinals, including a trip to the state Final 4 as a senior. Vorpahl and Churchill High were area finalist her sophomore year and regional quarterfinalists the last two seasons.
"I think when players come in and they've had success - both individual and team success - they bring that mentality to our program," Stockton said. "One thing that we've been fortunate about here is to bring those players into our program, and build on their winning attitudes."
And finally, each of the three Tulane freshmen come from an athletic background. Hall's father, Carl, and uncle, Charlie, played football at Tulane and were drafted by NFL franchises while Vorpahl's father, Donnie, played college football at Texas Lutheran. Latham's grandfather Cliff Johnson and uncle, Mike Eastler, both played Major League Baseball and her uncle, Vince Young, was an All-American quarterback at Texas before embarking on a six-year NFL career.
The 2013-14 freshman class will join a Tulane team which returns seven letterwinners - including three starters - from last year's team, which finished 24-9 overall, second in the Conference USA regular-season standing with an 11-5 league record, and advanced to the third round of the 2013 WNIT. The win total gave Tulane a 20-plus win season for the fourth consecutive season - a feat last accomplished in 2002 when the Wave capped a streak of seven consecutive 20-plus win campaigns. Tulane's WNIT wins over Sam Houston State in Devlin Fieldhouse and Arkansas in Fayetteville marked the first time in program history that the Green Wave advanced to the third round of a postseason tournament.