McNeese dominates SLC honors

Published 1:33 pm Saturday, March 9, 2024

Shahada Wells came to McNeese State to show what he could do on the basketball court.

Christian Shumate returned to prove last year’s late domination wasn’t a fluke.

Saturday the Cowboy duo that helped lead the biggest turnaround in college basketball this season were rewarded for their efforts.

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Wells was named the Southland Conference’s Player of the Year the league announced. 

Shumate was selected as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and head coach Will Wade won Coach of the Year honors for the Cowboys.

Wells, a senior grad transfer from TCU, was also selected as the Newcomer of the Year and named to the league’s All-Defensive Team.

Wells becomes the first Cowboy to win the Southland’s top honor since Patrick Richard in 2012 and the ninth ever. However, he was not alone in receiving league honors.

“I am happy for Hada, I’m happy for Christian,” said Wade. “Both of them have worked really hard and have earned it. It shows how consistent they have been.”

The trio led McNeese to a 28-3 regular season. They won their first conference title in 13 years with a 17-1 record and are the heavy favorite to capture the Southland Tournament title next week in the Legacy Center.

Wells finished second in the conference in scoring at 17.2 points per game and third in field goal percentage, shooting .473. He ranks second in the conference with 142 assists across 30 games and a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

His 88 steals led the conference, and was 33 more than the next closest player. That total is also the 3rd best in the entire country.

“Hada is amazing,” said Shumate. “He does so many things for us and is always making the big plays.”

Shumate was the league’s most electrifying player this season, making ESPN’s SportsCenter’s top plays eight times. He also led the conference in rebounds for the second straight year with a 9.7 average while scoring at 12 points a game.

Shumate finished the year with 48 dunks and his career total of 33 double-doubles is most in McNeese history.

The 6-foot-6 forward out of Chicago helped McNeese to finish atop the conference in defense, allowing 61.2 a game. That is currently fourth in the nation.

Both Wells and Shumate were selected to the All-Conference First Team as well. It is the third time Shumate has made an All-Southland team.

They were joined by Gary Clark (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Diante Smith (Nicholls and Nick Caldwell (Southeastern) on the first team.

The second team is made up of Chris Pryor of Lamar, Jamal West Jr. of Nicholls, Jordan Johnson of New Orleans (the conference’s leading scorer), Terry Anderson of Lamar, and Roger McFarlane of Southeastern.

The All-Defensive Team is made up of Shumate, Wells, West Jr., Chase Forte of Northwestern State, and Marion Humphrey of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Houston Christian’s Dominic Capriotti won Freshman of the Year honors.

The SLC Tournament tips off Sunday at 5:30 p.m. in Lake Charles.