Ragin' Cajuns, Long Top Choice in Sun Belt

LAFAYETTE – The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team, which returns all five starters including first team All-Sun Belt performer Shawn Long from last season's CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinal run, has been picked as the favorite to win the 2015-16 Sun Belt Conference race.

Long, who has averaged a double-double throughout his entire career and was the only player in the SBC to rank in the top five in both scoring and rebounding a year ago, was tabbed as the 2015-16 Preseason Student-Athlete of the Year and first team choice.

Teammates Jay Wright and Devonta Walker join Long on the preseason All-SBC squad, both garnering third team accolades.

The honors were announced on Wednesday as the Sun Belt Conference released the results of voting for the preseason all-conference team and preseason poll, conducted by the league's 11 head coaches.

"Our players and staff are excited about being the top pick in the Sun Belt's preseason poll," Louisiana head men's basketball coach Bob Marin said. "The expectations and demands of our program remain high.

"We have our top eight players back from a team that finished last season strong by winning nine of the final 11 games," Marlin noted. "We will need to have another strong finish to prepare for the conference tournament in New Orleans in March, as we are the only team to play five of their first six conference games on the road."

The Ragin' Cajuns finished 22-14 overall in 2014-15 and 13-7 in Sun Belt play for a fourth place finish. Louisiana won nine of its last 11 games advancing to the quarterfinals of the CIT before they lost to eventual tournament champion Evansville. Marlin guided the Cajuns to 20-plus wins a second consecutive season, marking the first back-to-back 20-win campaigns since 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Louisiana received nine of the possible 11 first place votes and with 119 total points edged out Georgia State, which had two first place votes and 108 points, for top billing.

Long, a 6-11 senior from Morgan City, averaged 16.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season and was named to the Lou Henson All-America team in addition to being named a first-team All-Sun Belt and All-Louisiana selection.

The three-time All-Sun Belt Conference pick was one of only seven collegians to play for the U.S. men's basketball team that claimed the bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games. Long enters his final season in a Ragin' Cajuns uniform as the NCAA active leader in double-doubles (52) and total rebounds (1,036). Long is ranked second among active NCAA players in rebound average (10.3) and is seventh in blocked shots (212).

"Shawn has worked extremely hard this spring and summer to have a great senior season," Marlin stated. "He has improved every year and has proven to be one of the best scorers and rebounders in the college game.

"He is in the best shape of his life and doing a great job of leading our team," Marlin added. "The USA basketball experience helped his maturity and improved his leadership skills. He's doing everything he can to get us back to the NCAA Tournament."

Wright, a 6-1 junior from Rincon, Ga., earned third team All-Sun Belt Conference honors in his first season with the Ragin' Cajuns after averaging 9.1 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds. CollegeInsider.com named him a finalist for the Lefty Driesell Award, which recognizes the top defensive player in nation.

Walker, a 6-7 senior from Salisbury, Md., played in all 36 games last season making 18 starts. The Western Texas College transfer shot .505 from the field, good for sixth in the SBC, and averaged 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He reached double figures in scoring 16 times.

Louisiana opens the 2015-16 season on Monday, Nov. 9 against Mississippi College in an exhibition game before officially tipping off the campaign on Friday, Nov. 13 against Louisiana College at the Cajundome.

Season tickets are available by calling the Cajundome Box Office at (337) 265-2357 or visiting RaginCajuns.com.

Preseason Sun Belt Conference Coaches Poll

(First place votes in parenthesis)

Rank Team Points (1st Place Votes)

1 Louisiana 119 (9) 2 Georgia State 108 (2) 3 ULM 97 4 Arkansas State 71 5 Little Rock 68 6 Appalachian State 64 7 South Alabama 56 8 UT Arlington 48 Texas State 48 10 Georgia Southern 28 11 Troy 19

Preseason First Team All-Conference

Anthony Livingston (Arkansas State, Jr., F, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Shawn Long (Louisiana, Sr., F/C, General Studies)

Ken Williams (South Alabama, Junior, Guard, Interdisciplinary studies)

Emani Gant (Texas State, Senior, Forward, General Studies)

Wesley Person (Troy, Sophomore, Guard, Global Business)

Preseason Second Team All-Conference

Frank Eaves (Appalachian State University, Senior, Guard, Management)

Markus Crider (Georgia State, Senior, Forward, Speech)

Kevin Ware (Georgia State, Senior, Guard, Religious Studies)

Josh Hagins (Little Rock, Senior, Guard, Health Science)

Majok Deng (UL Monroe, Senior, Forward, General Studies)

Preseason Third Team All-Conference

Jeremy Hollowell (Georgia State, RS-Junior, Forward, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Roger Woods (Little Rock, Senior, Forward, Criminal Justice)

Devonta Walker (Louisiana, Sr., F, General Studies)

Jay Wright (Louisiana, Jr., G, General Studies)

Nick Coppola (UL Monroe, Junior, Guard, Risk Management and Insurance)

Preseason Student-Athlete of the Year

Shawn Long (Louisiana, Sr., F/C, General Studies)

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