Southland Conference basketball: A midseason review
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Saturday, February 02, 2013
2/03/13 at 1:49 AM
Oral Roberts University's inaugural tour of the Southland Conference is halfway over.
The Golden Eagles will christen the second half of league play with a 7:30 p.m. Saturday home game against Southeastern Louisiana.
Before that game tips off, here's a midseason status update on the race for All-Southland awards:
Player of the year: ORU has two contestants. Warren Niles leads the Southland in scoring. Damen Bell-Holter is the top scorer in conference games and is flirting with a double-double average (20.7 points, 9.9 rebounds) in league play.
Another strong candidate is Stephen F. Austin's Taylor Smith, who, since the start of conference play, is No. 1 in rebounds, field-goal percentage and blocks. He is the league's fourth-leading scorer.
First-team All-Southland: Start with the three players listed above. Add Nicholls State's Fred Hunter and Northwestern State's DeQuan Hicks, who rank among the league's top eight players in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage.
Coach of the year: Danny Kaspar, Stephen F. Austin. His Lumberjacks lead the nation in scoring defense and own a tiebreaker over the co-leader (ORU) in the Southland standings.
Freshman of the year: Jalan West of Northwestern State redshirted last season due to NCAA Clearinghouse issues. Worth the wait? He leads the Southland in steals and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Sophomore of the year: Johnathan Jordan of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is a productive player on a struggling team. He is third among Southland players in assists and is the league's top sophomore scorer.
Newcomer (non-freshman) of the year: Hicks, a junior-college transfer, is making a big splash at Northwestern State. He ranks sixth among league players in scoring, third in field-goal percentage, second in offensive rebounds and fourth in steals.
ORU's Shawn Glover, a Utah transfer, is averaging 24.7 points over his last three games. In league play, he ranks among the top 10 players in points, rebounds, field-goal percentage and blocks.
Best defender: Stephen F. Austin's Antonio Bostic plays for the nation's stingiest defensive team and usually guards the opponent's best perimeter player. Niles made three field goals in a loss to the Lumberjacks. Two came when Bostic was on the bench.
Another candidate? McNeese State's Kevin Hardy ranks among the league's top 10 players in steals, blocks and defensive rebounds.
Sixth man of the year: James Hulbin of Northwestern State averages 21.1 minutes of court time and still manages to rank 14th among league players in scoring, 10th in rebounding, fourth in field-goal percentage and sixth in blocks.
Most improved player: Hulbin, who averages nearly four points more than he did one year ago, entered this season with a career field-goal percentage of .432. He's shooting .541 as a senior.
Bell-Holter averaged 7.9 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. His numbers are 15.2 and 9.3 this season.
Comeback player of the year: Hunter sat out a medical redshirt season one year ago. Now he's the Southland's second-leading scorer and sixth-leading rebounder.
Brandon Fortenberry of Southeastern Louisiana played in seven games before suffering a season-ending injury last year. He ranks 10th among league players in scoring and eighth in assists.
Most underrated player: Hal Bateman quarterbacks Stephen F. Austin and leads the league in assists.
Someone on the Sam Houston State roster is perhaps underrated. The Bearkats have won half their Southland games, but no one averages more than 8.9 points.
Best clutch shooter: Jarvis Garner of Central Arkansas made two 3-pointers to extend a triple-overtime game against McNeese State.
Best leaper or dunker: Among players nominated by league sources were Bateman (a YouTube highlight video includes a dunk at Tulsa), Northwestern State's Brison White and Southeastern Louisiana's Onochie Ochie, who was born in Stillwater and won a slam dunk contest as a high school senior in Georgia. Ochie will be at the Mabee Center when the second half of league play begins.
Original Print Headline: ORU hits halfway mark in Southland
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389