McNeese State junior basketball player Kevin Hardy has become the first player in program history to be named the Southland Conference's Student-Athlete of the Year.
Hardy, a Lake Charles native and product of St. Louis Catholic, started in all 31 games for the Cowboys this past season and led the league in minutes played (35.5) and was third in steals (2.0), fifth in assists (4.3) and 11th in rebounding (6.7).
He finished the season ranked second on the squad with 11.0 points per game and netted 10 or more points 16 times. He scored 20 or more two times and recorded five double-doubles, which ranked tied for the fifth-most in the league.
Hardy, who earned league all-academic honors for the second straight year, has a 3.42 GPA in electrical engineering. Two weeks ago, Hardy was named to the SLC all-defensive team for the second consecutive season along with being named honorable mention all-SLC.
He ended the season having climbed the school's all-time career records list in steals (sixth all-time with 156) and assists (tied for 17th with 205). As a senior next year, Hardy needs 50 steals, 43 rebounds and 251 points to become the first player in school history to claim 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in a career.
There were two automatic selections on the all-academic teams with Abilene Christian sophomore forward Parker Wentz, who earned a spot on the CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District 7 Team, and Stephen F. Austin junior forward Jacob Parker, who earned a first-team, all-conference spot. The remaining eight all-academic honorees were selected by a vote of the league's head coaches, sports information contacts and academic advisors.
Two student-athletes are earning all-academic selections for the third time in their career, including SFA guard Desmond Haymon and Northwestern State guard Gary Stewart, last season's student-athlete of the year. Hardy, Parker and SFA guard Thomas Walkup are all earning their second all-academic honor.
Joining Hardy on the first team are Wentz, Parker, Haymon and Walkup. Wentz, a sophomore from Lubbock, Texas, is a biology major with a 3.90 GPA. Parker, a junior who hails Bixby, Okla., carries a 3.19 GPA in kinesiology. Parker was also tabbed the league player of the year after leading the Lumberjacks to a perfect 18-0 league mark and a second round win in the NCAA tournament. Haymon, a second-team all-conference pick from Pickens, Miss., boasts a 3.10 GPA in kinesiology. Rounding out the first-team honorees is Walkup, a junior from Pasadena, Texas. Walkup, who was named third-team all-conference and a member of the all-defensive team, carries a 3.14 in management.
Second-team honorees include Stewart (3.51 GPA in psychology), UIW sophomore Kyle Hittle (3.65 GPA in business administration) and graduate student Ian Markoff (3.88 GPA in business administration), SFA senior Nikola Gajic (3.26 GPA in general business) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi junior Jake Kocher (3.49 GPA in marketing).
SFA landed four all-academic selections and UIW placed two while ACU, McNeese, Northwestern and A&M-Corpus Christi had one selection each.
The Southland Conference awards committee, which consists of one administrator from each of the 14 member schools, voted for the student-athlete of the year.
The student-athlete of the year award is presented to the student-athlete who achieves excellence in both academics and athletics. All nominees shall have earned at least a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale and demonstrated achievement in athletics for at least two years at the nominating institution.
The all-academic teams are voted on by the head coaches, sports information directors and academic advisors from each Southland Conference university. Student-athletes must possess a 3.0 cumulative GPA, have completed one full academic year at the nominating institution and participated in at least 50 percent of the team's competition to qualify for the all-academic squad.