NEW ORLEANS — University of Louisiana at Lafayette redshirt freshman Shawn Long has been named the Sun Belt Conference’s Freshman of the Year, while teammate Elfrid Payton was honored as a first-team all-conference selection.
Long, a former Morgan City standout, was named to the all-league second team, too, the league office announced today.
“This is a great way to start championship week,” Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin, whose Cajuns open play in the 2013 Sun Belt Conference tournament this week, said in a university news release. “Elfrid and Shawn have played such important roles in the development of our team this year and I am happy that they are being recognized for their success.”
Long, a 6-foot, 9-inch, 243-pound forward, has been the dominant big man inside this year for the Cajuns, averaging 15.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. He ranks 14th nationally and second in the Sun Belt in rebounding and is fourth in the league and 57th in the nation in blocked shots.
With 319 rebounds, Long ranks sixth on the Louisiana-Lafayette single-season list, while his 63 blocked shots are also sixth-best.
Long ranks fifth nationally with 17 double-doubles and has scored 20 points or more in a game nine times. He leads the nation’s freshmen in rebounding and is ninth among freshmen in both scoring and blocks.
“We asked an awful lot from Shawn heading into this season and he repeatedly came through for us,” Marlin said. “As impressive as his numbers are this year, I don’t think that he has scratched the surface of his true potential. I look forward to watching him develop over the next three years.”
Payton, a 6-2, 170-pound sophomore point guard from Gretna, has had a breakout year, averaging 15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.5 steals per game. He is the only player in the country to average 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals per game this year.
Payton leads the league in both steals and assists, ranking 12th nationally in steals and 38th in assists. He is also tied with Long for fourth in the league in scoring and is 18th in rebounds.
A starter in all 31 games, Payton ranks third in school history with 76 steals this year, while his 168 assists are seventh-best. With two full seasons to play, he already ranks 19th all-time with 113 steals and 21st with 265 assists.
Payton is the first Cajuns player to receive first team All-Sun Belt honors since Tyren Johnson did in 2009-10.
“Elfrid set the tone for this season by playing his best game as a freshman against North Texas in the league tourney,” Marlin said. “He came back a different player, showing great leadership skills on the court and being one of the best overall players in the Sun Belt.”
Payton, Long and the Cajuns open Sun Belt championship play Friday against North Texas at 6:30 p.m. on the Convention Center Court in Hot Springs, Ark.