March 11, 2008
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -
Days after securing the first Southland Conference championship in school history, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack basketball team registered another first. According to a story released Tuesday by league officials, junior forward Josh Alexander was named the SLC Playaer of the Year, and head coach Danny Kaspar garnered Coach of the Year honors, marking the first time in program history for SFA to take both those awards in the same season.
Junior center Matt Kingsley joined Alexander on the All-SLC squad with a second-team selection, tying SFA with co-champion Lamar as the only schools with two players chosen to the top two teams. Sophomore point guard Eric Bell was an honorable-mention selection, giving SFA four all-conference honors in total.
Alexander's achievement comes in a career year for the Shreveport, La., native. He finished the regular season ranked among the league's Top 20 in both scoring and rebounding. He averaged 16.5 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game through the first 29 games of the season, marking the third straight year for him to lead the Lumberjacks in both categories. Alexander became the school's career 3-point field goal leader after hitting a personal-best 89 triples this season. He has 234 career 3-pointers and is 13th among SFA's all-time scorers with 1,233 career points.
Kingsley is enjoying a break-out year and has pushed Alexander for the team scoring and rebounding titles all season. The Houston native averages 15.3 points per game and 5.6 rebounds, which rank fifth and 19th, respectively, in the SLC. He and Alexander give the Lumberjacks the most potent one-two scoring punch in the league, as no other team has two players in the top 10, let alone the top five. Tuesday's second-team nod marks Kingsley's first career all-conference honor.
While not displaying the scoring flair of his two teammates, Bell is a big part of the reason for their success this season. He has set the table for his squad better than any point guard in the SLC. Bell leads the league with 5.62 assists per game and has posted a league-best 2.40 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. No other player in the conference has a ratio above 1.80. Bell has been ranked among the top 35 nationally in both categories all season and has also chipped in with 6.1 points per game.
Kaspar's Coach of the Year honor punctuates what has, so far, been his signature season in charge of the program. The Lumberjacks finished the regular season with a 25-4 record that stands as the best mark in the 22-year history of the program's NCAA Division I tenure. Only four seasons in the Lumberjacks' 84-year history overall have ended with better win totals, with just two of those totals having been reached in regular-season play. SFA's .862 winning percentage ranked 10th in the nation at the end of the regular season.
But, perhaps most importantly, Kaspar has guided the Lumberjacks to their first-ever Southland Conference championship. SFA compiled a 13-3 record in SLC play to win a share of this year's hardware and earn the No. 1 seed in the Southland Conference Tournament. This marks the first league title for the program since SFA won the Gulf Star Conference in the 1986-87 season, under Harry Miller, one of Kaspar's mentors.
The Lumberjacks achieved their success in 2007-08 by playing basketball Kaspar's way. SFA has put together one of the best defensive performances in Southland Conference history. Through the end of the regular season, the Lumberjacks' 55.0 points allowed per game ranked second in the nation and will be a new SLC record if they can maintain it. It is the best defensive average for an SFA team since joining the NCAA Division I ranks and is the best mark for a Lumberjack squad in the shot clock era.
SFA will try to add a Southland Conference Tournament title and NCAA Championship berth to its list of accolades this week. The Lumberjacks open tournament play by taking on No. 8 Texas-San Antonio in the first round on Thursday. The game against the Roadrunners is set for a 6 p.m. start. All tournament games will be played at the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.
-- SFA --