NATCHITOCHES -- Northwestern State's charge to 21 wins and the brink of the Southland Conference regular-season basketball title netted big honors Tuesday as four Demon standouts were spotlighted on the All-Southland Team, including Freshman of the Year Jalan West and Newcomer of the Year DeQuan Hicks.
Seniors Shamir Davis and James Hulbin lived up to their preseason billing as likely all-league selections, earning spots on the 15-man All-Southland Team along with Hicks, while West was the 16th-leading vote-getter overall and was honorable mention. West, who is 14th nationally and the Southland's best at 2.41 steals per game, was chosen for the league's five-man All-Defensive Team.
Coupled with Monday's announcement that Lady Demon point guard Janelle Perez won the Southland women's Freshman of the Year award, West's recognition made this the first time in the Southland's history that point guards from the same school have swept the league's top freshman honors in men's and women's basketball.
NSU (21-8 overall, second by a game in the league standings with a 15-3 record) earned a double bye into the semifinals of this week's Southland Conference Tournament in Katy, Texas. The Demons play at 7:30 Friday night against either third-seeded Oral Roberts, No. 6 Sam Houston or No. 7 Central Arkansas, hoping to advance to Saturday night's 7:30 tournament championship game on ESPN2. The tourney champ goes to the NCAA Tournament.
Hicks, Hulbin, Davis and West spearhead an attack that continues to lead the nation in scoring (82.4 average) while the Demons rank fourth in steals per game (10) and 16th in assists average (16) among seven top 50 NCAA statistical standings.
Hicks, a 6-7 transfer from Racine, Wis., and New Mexico Junior College, ranks 10th nationally with a 58.3 percent shooting rate and leads the Demons with his 14.2 scoring average despite missing the final three games with an ankle injury. His 5.9 rebounding average shares the team lead with Hulbin, and they were second-team All-Southland selections. Hicks, a forward, is fifth in the conference with 1.7 steals per game and is second nationally in points per 40 minutes (29.0), averaging just a shade over 20 minutes per contest.
Hulbin, a 6-8 senior forward from Shreveport-Booker T. Washington who graduated in December with a computer information systems degree, is the Demons' second-leading scorer (12.5) whose 51.4 percent shooting aim ranks fifth in the conference and his 37.5 percent 3-point aim is seventh-best. A midseason poll by the Tulsa World newspaper cited Hulbin as the most improved player in the Southland, with significant jumps in his scoring, rebounding and shooting accuracy this season.
Davis, a 6-0 senior guard from Shreveport-Huntington, is scoring 12.4 per game and has moved among the school's career scoring leaders. His 1,105 points is 22nd all-time for the Demons and his 293 career assists rank 10th. He has started 76 of his career 122 games. He was a repeat All-Southland selection, first earning honors last season, and capped the regular season with 24 points in Saturday's 83-72 win over Sam Houston.
West, a 5-11 redshirt freshman, ranks 10th in the NCAA with a plus 2.9 assist-turnover ratio. The Bossier High School product is 44th nationally with a 5.4 assists average and leads the Southland in assist-turnover ratio, steals and free throw aim (83.6 percent), including a streak of 21 straight late in the season. His 10.4 scoring average is boosted by making 1.7 3-pointers per game, which ranks fifth in the Southland. He had 12 assists, most by a Southland player this season, and no turnovers Saturday while posting his first career double-double, adding 11 points.
Senior center Taylor Smith of regular-season champion Stephen F. Austin swept the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Danny Kaspar, who has guided SFA to a 26-3 record and the NCAA's lead in scoring defense (50.2 points allowed per game), won conference Coach of the Year honors.
SFA, NSU and Oral Roberts each had three players on the 15-man all-conference list. SFA added another honorable mention pick, giving the Southland's top two teams four players honored in the voting process. SFA had three of the five All-Defensive Team selections.
Hicks and Hulbin were second-team choices and Davis was a third-team pick. Hicks is the first NSU player to receive the league's Newcomer of the Year honor since it was created in 1991.
West is the third Demon to earn Freshman of the Year honors, along with Jermaine Wallace (2003) and Dexter Grimsley (1990), both selected on the Demons' Modern Era Fab 50 as part of the 100-man All-Century Team chosen for NSU's Basketball Centennial Celebration held Saturday.
Four times in Southland history, the same school has had players win the Freshman of the Year honor, with West and Perez's recognition being the first since 2001 when Texas-Arlington players swept the awards. It also happened in 1994 (Texas State) and 1995 (North Texas).
Voting on the all-conference teams was done late last week by Southland head coaches and sports information directors.