Cowboys gaining attention: Wells named SLC Player of the Week

Published 2:30 pm Monday, December 4, 2023

The Cowboys find themselves in elite company these days.

McNeese State woke up Monday with a net ranking of No. 30 in the country, ahead of such blue bloods as North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky.

The NCAA released its first net rankings of the year and the upstart Pokes are there with the big boys.

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“We jumped what, 310 spots, that’s good,” said McNeese head coach Will Wade. “That is surprising.”

More attention came later when graduate senior guard Shahada Wells was named the Southland Conference’s Player of the Week.

Wells scored 61 points in two Cowboy victories, including 36 at Alabama-Birmingham last Tuesday. The transfer from TCU leads McNeese in scoring at 19.1 points a game.

“It has been a fun start,” Wells said. “The team has really come together fast and we enjoy each other on and off the court.”

McNeese will put its 7-2 start on the line Tuesday night as the Pokes host Mississippi University for Women, which we expect also has a few men as well.

The Owls are 3-2 on the season. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. inside the Legacy Center where the Cowboys are 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 41 points.

To be fair three of those four games have been against non-Division 1 opponents like tonight’s foe.

“We will want to play to our standards no matter who the competition is,” Wade has said. “This is about us.”

This is the final game Wade will miss for his NCAA suspension dating back to his tenure at LSU. After tonight all the “Free Willy” talk can be put to rest and the coach is ready for it.

“I’m excited about that,” said Wade. “I have been with the team except for game days and (Brandon) Chambers and Vernon (Hamilton) have done an incredible job. I can only screw it up from here.

“I just want to keep the car on the road.”

With the 46th ranked offense in the country, McNeese is controlling the basketball. The Pokes turn it over just an average of 8.6 times a game and hitting on 51 percent of their shots from the field and 41% from the 3-point line.

“Our offense has been real good,” said Wade. “Defensively we were horrible last game.”

The Cowboys allowed a school-record 16 threes in a 91-80 victory over Tennessee-Martin last Saturday.

“Our defense is built to give up threes,” Wade said. “It was the type of threes that was concerning. You have to go out and contest those shots.”

He added that the Owls can shoot from long range.
“We are going to have to keep our rotation out on them,” Wade said.

The Owls are led by Brye Hopkins, who is their only player averaging in double digits at 18.8.

Christian Shumate is second on the Cowboys in scoring at 12.6 while averaging a double-double with 10.1 rebounds a game. Antavion Collum is scoring at an 11.4 clip.

After the Owls McNeese will be off for a week before taking on Southern Mississippi at home Nov. 13. The following Sunday it’s a showdown with rival Louisiana-Lafayette before breaking for Christmas.