NATCHITOCHES – Can Northwestern State’s “J-Z on Tour” tandem of Jalan West and Zeek Woodley match their long list of 2014-15 accomplishments again this season?
West and Woodley gave NSU the nation’s highest scoring tandem in 2014-15, posting a combined 42.2 average as the Demons led the NCAA with 84.0 points per game.
They spearheaded a 19-win season that earned NSU a CollegeInsider.com Tournament berth, the fourth national postseason tournament appearance for the Demons this century.
Demons’ basketball coach Mike McConathy sees even better things ahead for his dynamic duo, who good-naturedly debate who plays the role of “Batman” and who is “Robin” in the NSU pecking order.
West, a senior point guard from Bossier High, and Woodley, a junior swingman from Pelican-All Saints High, were first-team selections Tuesday when the Southland Conference released its 10-man preseason all-conference roster.
“I expect they’ll be better this year,” said McConathy. “They’re putting in the work. They have good players around them and they are consumed first and foremost by winning games and constantly improving so we can reach our team goals.
“They put up some amazing numbers last season. Neither of them really noticed,” he said. “Most everybody else is justifiably impressed with the statistics. I can’t say if those numbers will be better or not, but I can say it’s great having two players with their special gifts who are all about our team.”
NSU was the only school with two players on the Preseason All-Southland first team, which also included returning conference Player of the Year Thomas Walkup of defending champion Stephen F. Austin, Rashawn Thomas of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Sam Houston State’s Paul Baxter.
Second-team selections were SFA’s Ty Charles, Zay Jackson from Southeastern Louisiana, McNeese’s Craig McFerrin, Kyle Hittle of Incarnate Word and Anthony Odunsi from Houston Baptist. Voting was done by the 13 head coaches in the conference.
West, a 5-10 sharpshooter, won the NCAA assists championship while ranking among the nation’s top 20 scorers in 2014-15. Woodley, a 6-2 force inside and outside, was No. 2 nationally in scoring last year with a 22.2 average and ranked 27th in shooting aim at 56 percent.
West was the nation’s leader in assists as he registered 7.7 assists per game and he ranked 16th in the NCAA in scoring, averaging 20 points per game. He broke Northwestern State records in both assists in a season and assists in a career.
West posted seven double-doubles, one including 11 rebounds, and had 13 games with at least 25 points, five of 30 points or more.
At the end of the 2014-15 season, West ranked third among active players in the NCAA in career assists at 6.39 assists per game. It was one of eight career top 30 rankings among all NCAA players, and eight in the top 100.
He stood fourth in assist to turnover ratio (plus 2.6) and eighth in career steals average (2.31 pg). West was 29th with his career 16.5 scoring average and was among only 19 players in NCAA Division I to have at least 1,500 career points (1,567) and 350 assists (608).
West’s national assists championship was among five NCAA top 25 per game 2014-15 rankings, six in the national top 35. Adding in season total statistics for aggregate scoring, assists, free throws, three-pointers and attempts, he had 17 top 100 listings among college basketball leaders last season.
He finished with 45.5 percent shooting aim (124th nationally), 42.2 percent accuracy on 3-pointers (20th nationally) and 86.2 percent free throw shooting (32nd).
West was 22nd in assist-turnover ratio (plus 2.7) and 23rd in both steals per game (2.1). His 2.7 made 3-pointers per game ranked 45th nationally, and his seven double-doubles was 96th.
During the season, West broke both the season and career school records for assists. He has moved into sixth on the Demons’ career scoring list with 1,567 points and is third all-time in steals with 219.
He averaged 4.4 rebounds per game, including a career-best 11 (along with 34 points) in NSU’s CollegeInsider.com Tournament first-round loss to Tennessee-Martin.
West was a CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major All-American and among the 30 finalists for the Lou Henson Award presented to CollegeInsider.com’s Mid-Major Player of the Year in college basketball.
West was also a first-team selection on the All-District 23 Team chosen by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, with Woodley on the second team from District 23, comprised of players from the Southland and Southwestern Athletic conferences. West was the leading vote-getter on the team.
Woodley won last season’s Southland Conference Basketball Student-Athlete of the Year honors based on his 3.3 cumulative grade point average and his basketball accomplishment.
The 2013-14 Southland Freshman of the Year had a breakthrough year in 2014-15. He was a standout on the national scene not only with his scoring, but his shooting aim. At 6-2, he was the only player in the country under 6-4, and among only four under 6-7, in the top 30 nationally in field goal percentage with his 56 percent rate, including 60 percent inside the 3-point arc.
He was NSU’s second-leading rebounder with a 5.0 average. His shooting eye was sharp all over: he drained 81.3 percent of his free throws (115th nationally) and 39.8 percent on 3-pointers.
Woodley shattered the Demons’ 38-year-old season scoring record with 711 points, topping 686 in 1976-77 by Billy Reynolds. He became the first sophomore in school history to pass 1,000 career points and already ranks 21st all-time at 1,142 points. Including season aggregate totals for points, field goals made and attempted, and free throws made and attempted, he ranked in the NCAA’s top 100 in seven stat categories last season.
His career 18.1 scoring average placed him 13th among all 2014-15 players in major college basketball. Woodley’s career 58.1 field goal percentage was 25th in the country and he was the only player in the top 50 under 6-4.
His career scoring total is third-best nationally by any player beginning his junior season next month, topped only by Murray State’s Cameron Payne (1,279 points, 18.5 per game) and Andrew Rowsey of UNC Asheville (1,244, 19.7 ppg).
His 2014-15 scoring average is fourth-best in school history.
Woodley’s first-team All-Southland Academic status goes alongside his Southland Conference All-Tournament honor, and second-team status on the All-Southland and All-Louisiana teams, among honors claimed last season.
Perhaps the strongest basketball accolade: his inclusion on the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s 10-man All-District VI Team, along with eight stars from the Southeastern and Big XII conferences and Stephen F. Austin’s Walkup; and being one of the 40 players considered beginning in midseason for the Lou Henson Award presented by CollegeInsider.com to the country’s Mid-Major Player of the Year.
— Doug Ireland, Northwestern State Sports Information