Wade, Wells earn top honors

Published 11:03 am Wednesday, April 24, 2024

McNeese State’s banner season picked up a few more awards Wednesday as four Cowboys received honors from the state’s sports writers.

Head coach Will Wade and graduate transfer Shahada Wells took home the biggest of honors from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association when the group announced its men’s basketball team for the past season.

Forward Christian Shumate earned second-team honors while super-sub DJ Richards was named to the third team.

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After leading McNeese to its record-setting turnaround season, Wade was named the LSWA’s Coach of the Year. The former LSU head coach guided the Cowboys to a 30-4 record and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 22 years.

Wade’s Cowboys were a perfect 18-0 at home and 17-1 in league play while winning both the Southland Conference’s regular and postseason titles. Their 19-game turnaround is tied for the best in NCAA history.

Wade is the fourth McNeese head coach to be honored by the writers, joining Dave Simmons (2011), Tic Price (2002) and Glen Duhon (1978). 

Wade was named the Southland and NABC District 22 Coach of the Year earlier and was also named a finalist for the Jim Phelan and Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Awards. He even received a vote for AP Coach of the Year.

Wells took home a pair of honors. The senior transfer from TCU added to his collection of post-season awards by being named the Player and Newcomer of the Year by the LSWA. 

Wells averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and three steals during his only season at McNeese. He was named the Southland Player of the Year and Major Madness First-Team All-American. 

“He is the best competitor I have ever coached,” Wade said of his guard who declared for the NBA draft Monday. “He is the best leader I have ever had on any of my teams.”

Wells becomes just the second McNeese player ever to earn the top award from the LSWA, joining NBA champ and Hall of Famer Joe Dumars who won the honor in 1985. 

A Lou Henson and Lute Olson All-American, Wells played big in the biggest games, scoring a career-high 37 in a two-point loss at Western Carolina. He had 29 double-figure games, including 36 at UAB and 30 against Michigan.

Shumate was a human highlight during an electrifying junior season. He became a national sensation by making ESPN’s Top 10 plays 10 times with his named Shu-slam dunks. Twice he had the top play.

Shumate, who entered the transfer portal last year before electing to return to the Cowboys, was the Southland’s Defensive Player of the Year while collecting first-team All-SLC, SLC All-Defensive Team and NABC All-District first-team honors. 

Shumate averaged 12.1 points and a conference-best 9,5 rebounds. His 15 double-doubles also topped the SLC. 

Richards was the Southland’s three-point champion, connecting on 45.1 percent for the season from long range. He finished with 83 treys, the eighth-most in program history, while his percentage ranked as the third-highest ever.

He scored in double-figures 19 times and earned All-SLC Tournament honors after scoring 16 in the title game. Richards also had five four-point plays on the year.