NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana’s JaKeenan Gant earned postseason honors by the Sun Belt Conference on Monday as he was selected as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season while being named a first-team selection in voting by the league’s head coaches and a selected media panel.
The selection of Gant, who was selected as both the league’s Defensive and Newcomer of the Year in 2018, marked the third straight season a Louisiana player was chosen as the Sun Belt’s top defensive player, joining former high school teammate and Ragin’ Cajuns point guard Jay Wright.
The Springfield, Ga., native, joined Wright (2017) and Elfrid Payton (2014) as the only Ragin’ Cajuns in earning the award, while Gant became the fifth player overall and first two-time winner of the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Award since Brett Royster of Florida Atlantic in 2010-11.
The 6-foot-8 senior finished the regular season ranked third in the Sun Belt in scoring (20.4), led the league in blocked shots (2.7) for the second consecutive year while finishing second in the league in both rebounds (8.6) and field goal percentage (.541). In Sun Belt games, Gant averaged 23.1 points – third among all SBC players – while finishing second in field goal percentage (.562) and pacing the conference in both rebounds (9.2) and blocked shots (2.2).
Gant recorded 15 games during the season with 20 or more points, highlighted by a career-high 45 points in a win over Little Rock on Jan. 5. Gant grabbed 10 or more rebounds in a dozen games during the regular season, with a career-best 17 boards coming at Texas State.
Georgia Southern’s Tookie Brown was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year with UT Arlington’s Chris Ogden named the Joe Gottfried Sun Belt Coach of the Year. ULM’s Daishon Smith was named the league’s Newcomer of the Year while DeVante Jones of Coastal Carolina was selected as the Freshman of the Year.
Gant, Brown and Smith were joined on the first team by Georgia State’s D’Marcus Simonds, and Nijal Pearson of Texas State.
The second team was represented by Josh Ajayi of South Alabama, Ty Cockfield of Arkansas State, Zac Cuthbertson of Coastal Carolina, Ronshad Shabazz of Appalachian State and Rayjon Tucker of Little Rock.
ULM’s Michael Ertel, Quan Jackson of Georgia Southern, Trhae Mitchell of South Alabama, Tre Nottingham of Texas State and UTA’s Brian Warren comprised the third-team.
Louisiana, the No. 5 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, will open play on Thursday at New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena in a 5 p.m., contest against the winner of South Alabama and Arkansas State.
***Courtesy UL Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics