SWAC Tournament 2017: The Forgotten Talent
Brian Barefield | 3/10/2017, 10:30 a.m.
As I sit in the Health and Physical Education Arena (home of the Southwestern Athletic Conference leader Texan Southern University basketball team), I am saddened by two things: One the crowd size and two, the lack of media coverage here. As many fans and media types rush to see the likes of All-Americans Lonzo Ball (G-UCLA), Frank Mason III (G-Kansas), Caleb Swanigan (F-Purdue), etc. play in their respective tournaments this weekend. I am preparing myself to see talented young men that the rest of the country is missing out on. The SWAC began its conference tournament on March 7, 2017 to kick off a week of action that will eventually crown a champion and send them to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
TSU guard Zach Lofton takes the floor as the SWAC Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. Leading the league in scoring (17.9 ppg), the 6-foot-3 guard is also a floor General who makes the Tigers offense run like a well-oiled machine. If you think about outscoring the Tigers, you might want to reevaluate your entire game plan. Not only do they have the Player of the Year, but they also tout the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year in 7-footer Marvin Jones. Averaging 1.5 blocks per game, Jones controls the paint and allows the rest of the team to take chances on the defensive end. He is also a very good rebounder, which serves his other teammate Demontrae Jefferson (Freshman of the Year) very well. The high scoring freshman (14.4 ppg) and second team all-conference player Kevin Scott rounds out a team that should have an uninterrupted trip to the NCAA Tournament as the number one overall seed (1995 was the last time they were there).
While one can easily get caught up in the plethora of talent on the Tigers, the SWAC has some stars that shine on a nightly basis. Southern University’s man child Shawn Prudhomme comes into the tournament looking to turn some heads on the next level and send the Jaguars to their 11th appearance to the “Big Dance.” It’s hard to overlook the 1st team All-SWAC Forward numbers (17.6 ppg. / 5.9 rpg.), but the leadership qualities he possesses stands out more. If the planets align just right, Prudhomme will have his work cut out for him in the second round matchup with 1st team All-SWAC 6’7 Forward Marquis Vance (11.0 ppg. / 7.4 rpg.) and 2nd team All-SWAC 6’ 5 Forward Reginald Johnson (15.5 ppg/ 7.0 rpg) from Alcorn State University. Outside of watching the Tigers play, this matchup will make fans appreciate the ticket they purchased to the Toyota Center on Friday, March 10, 2017.
The conference tournament means much more to Alcorn than any other participants due to the fact that they are ineligible for the 2017 NCAA Tournament. For the second straight year their academic progress report was below standards. So the two forwards will be out to prove to the fans in attendance and the ones viewing the game from live stream feeds that they belong right up there with all the other Division One basketball players. And those are just some of the hidden gems that play in the SWAC.
After watching Texas Southern shake off the rust and finally put their opponent (Alabama State) away, I was convinced that these young men will never get the proper respect they deserve unless they get deep into the NCAA Tournament. “It’s sad that we don’t have more of a media following down here. The fourth largest city in America and they think that the school across the street (UH) is the only one with talent,” says Terrance Johnson, a longtime supporter, and alumnus from Texas Southern University. Maybe this could be the year that changes things.