Long earns first-team all-conference honors
Both have improved their play from a year ago and have played pivotal roles in our team’s success this season heading into the conference tournament. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
After leading the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns to their first 20-win season since 2002-03, the tandem of Elfrid Payton and Shawn Long were named to the first-team as the 2014 All-Sun Belt Conference team was released Tuesday by the league office.
Payton, the lone repeat first-team member on the 15-man team, was selected as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in a vote by the league’s head coaches and a panel of selected media members. Long, who was a second-team member and the 2013 Freshman-of-the-Year, led the league in rebounds and blocked shots while finishing as the league’s lone player to average a double-double.
The selection of the duo marked the first time a pair of Ragin’ Cajuns were named to the first-team since 2002 when Anthony Johnson and Michael Southall were selected.
“Both have improved their play from a year ago and have played pivotal roles in our team’s success this season heading into the conference tournament,” ULL head coach Bob Marlin said in a news release. “We’re certainly proud of their accomplishments, and we look for greater things from them as we head into post-season play.”
Payton, the league leader in steals (2.3) and assists (5.9), finished second in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring, averaging 19.3 points per game while finishing 13th in the league in rebounds at 6.0. The Gretna native scored in double figures in 29 of 31 games played during the season and recorded four games with 30 or more points, highlighted by a career-high 34 earlier this season against the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
“Elfrid has come a long way since the beginning of last season when he was not on the preseason all-conference team and by the end of the season is a unanimous first-team selection,” Marlin said. “To be a repeat member on the first-team and be named as the Defensive Player of the Year is testament to his work ethic and leadership abilities. It’s a tremendous honor for him.”
Long, who posted 16 double-doubles this season, finished third in the league in scoring (19.2) while leading the league in rebounds (10.4) and blocked shots (2.8). The Morgan City native finished fourth in the league in 3-point field goal percentage (.448) and was sixth in field goal percentage (.526). He scored in double figures in 28 of 30 games, with 15 games scoring 20 or more points, highlighted by a career-high 31 in a win at UT Arlington.
“Shawn has been a great defender for us this season, leading the league in rebounds, blocked shots and being the only player to average a double-double,” Marlin said. “He’s a great defensive rebounder who made great strides and has been very consistent for us this season.”
Georgia State’s father-son duo of Ron Hunter (Coach-of-the-Year) and R.J. Hunter (Player-of-the-Year) were named as the Panthers claimed the regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Chris Harrison-Docks of Western Kentucky was selected as the league’s Freshman-of-the-Year.
Payton, Long and R.J. Hunter were joined on the first-team by UTA’s Reger Dowell and Ryan Harrow of GSU. Named to the second-team were Will Neighbour of University of Arkansas Little-Rock, Kirk Van Slyke of Arkansas State, Manny Atkins of GSU, Augustine Rubit of South Alabama and T.J. Price of WKU.
Selected to the third-team were Melvin Johnson III of ASU, Devonta White of GSU, Tylor Ongwae of ULM, UTA’s Brandon Edwards and WKU’s George Fant.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (20-11), who won eight of their last 10 games, earned the No. 3 seed and a first-round bye in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament that begins Thursday. The Cajuns will open play Friday at 8:30 p.m. against the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 6-seed UTA and No. 7-seed ULM.