Sharp named Southland Player and Newcomer of the Year; Black earns second-team All-SLC honors

After nearly 30 years, Northwestern State has its second Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year.

Senior point guard DeMarcus Sharp was named the Southland’s 2022-23 Player of the Year on Friday afternoon in a vote by league coaches, becoming the first Demon named the league’s top player since Eric Kubel in the 1993-94 season.

Sharp, who owns nine top-100 individual statistical rankings, also was named the league’s Newcomer of the Year after transferring to Northwestern State from Missouri State. He is the first Demon to collect that award since DeQuan Hicks in the 2012-13 season.

A 6-foot-3 native of Charleston, Missouri, Sharp leads the Southland Conference in scoring (18.7) and ranks second in assists (149, 4.8 per game), assist-to-turnover ratio (2.04), and third in blocks (23) and steals (54). In addition to leading the Demons in those categories, Sharp is the team’s second-leading rebounder (5.2 per game), which ranks 13th in the conference.

Sharp’s 18.7 points per game ranks 29th nationally and his 581 points are the ninth most in NSU career history. His 40-point game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Feb. 25 was the fifth-highest total in school history and was NSU’s first 40-point performance since Billy Reynolds scored 42 against Lamar on Dec. 4, 1976.

His 40-point outburst is one of his 12 20-plus-point games and four in which he scored at least 30 points. His back-to-back, 30-plus-point games at Stephen F. Austin (Dec. 1) and against Southern Miss (Dec. 4) earned him his second of four Southland Conference Player of the Week honors as well as College Insider’s Lou Henson National Player of the Week and Mid-Major Madness National Player of the Week acclaim.

Sharp’s defensive numbers also landed him a spot on the Southland’s All-Defensive Team as he produced five games in conference play with multiple steals and multiple blocks. He recorded a career-high six steals in the Demons’ Jan. 21 win at New Orleans, one of eight games in which he recorded at least three steals. In Southland play, Sharp ranked third in the league in blocks per game (1.1) behind a pair of players who stand at least 6-9.

A first-team All-Southland Conference selection, Sharp was joined by fellow Missouri State transfer Ja’Monta Black as Black earned second-team all-conference honors.

A 6-4 Columbia, Missouri, native, Black leads the Southland Conference and ranks third nationally with 115 made 3-pointers on the season, 10 shy of tying the Southland Conference’s single-season mark.

Northwestern State’s second-leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, Black has hit seven or more 3-pointers five times, including a school-record-tying nine against Houston Christian on Jan. 26. Black sank at least four 3-pointers in a game 14 times, including a stretch of five straight games from Jan. 12-26 in which he averaged seven 3-pointers per game on 47.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

A two-time Southland Conference Player of the Week, Black scored a career-high 31 points twice. His second 31-point performance of the year came Jan. 19 at Southeastern, a game where Black forced overtime by hitting three free throws with 13.5 seconds to play. That win kicked off the Demons’ nine-game Southland Conference win streak.

Sharp and Black become the first pair of Demon teammates to earn All-Southland honors since Jalan West (first team) and Zeek Woodley (second team) in 2014-15.

Second-seeded NSU opens Southland Conference Tournament play Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the semifinals against the winner of No. 3 seed Southeastern and the winner of the first-round matchup between No. 6 Houston Christian and No. 7 New Orleans in Lake Charles.