Ishmael Lane’s preseason commitment to a relentless work ethic paid off handsomely Monday when Northwestern State’s senior standout was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Southland Conference and a repeat first-team All-Southland selection.
“What great honors for a great young man. He’s really developed into an outstanding player. He’s always been an outstanding human being,” said NSU head coach Mike McConathy. “He had a great year. He had a stretch of double-doubles that has been as impressive a run as we’ve had in my 20 years.”
Lane, a 6-8 senior forward/center from Port Allen, averaged a double-double in Southland contests, 15 points per game and a conference-leading 11.3 rebounds per game. He posted seven double-doubles in a row from Jan. 19-Feb. 9, a string that topped NCAA Division I at that time, and had 11 overall in 2018-19, 26 in his career.
He finished tied atop the league in blocked shots (69), including a conference-best eight stops against New Orleans on Feb. 6 when he nearly had the fifth triple-double in school history, posting 19 points and 15 rebounds, including a 16-foot jumper at the buzzer to force overtime.
It was one in a series of clutch plays he made in his senior season. His tip-in at the buzzer on Jan. 12 lifted NSU to a 61-59 road win over arch-rival Stephen F. Austin. He drained a clinching 3-pointer with nine seconds left in an early-season overtime victory over Alabama A&M and sank two free throws with 6.4 seconds left to lock up an 80-75 victory Feb. 2 at Central Arkansas.
Lane finished his Demon career Saturday matching his career single-game rebounding high, snatching 19 to go with 18 points and three blocks in a 70-63 loss to UCA.
The 19 rebounds mirrored his total in a January meeting against regular-season champion Sam Houston State (scoring 19 as well). Those two performances were the best rebounding totals by a Southland player this season. They were tops by a Demon in 25 seasons.
The All-Southland team and individual honors were announced Monday afternoon by the league office in Frisco, Texas. Senior guard Cameron Delaney of regular-season champion Sam Houston State was the Player of the Year, with Abilene Christian’s Joe Golding winning Coach of the Year honors.
Sam Houston post player Kai Mitchell was voted Newcomer of the Year and Gerrale Gates of New Orleans won Freshman of the Year accolades.
Joining Lane on the All-Southland first team squad were Delaney, Southeastern Louisiana senior guard Marlain Veal, SLU senior center Moses Greenwood, and Lamar senior guard Nick Garth. Votes came from the 13-team league’s head coaches and basketball sports information contacts.
Lane was a preseason first-team All-Southland pick after earning top five status last year on the 15-man all-conference squad. He was the focal point of opposing defenses all season, frequently drawing double teams and dealing with sagging zone defenses.
Committing to constant effort helped him dominate in Southland play. His rebounding and blocked shots (2.8) averages more than doubled his career rates entering his senior year.
“He didn’t take plays off, and that’s why his rebounding numbers went through the roof. He did a phenomenal job of raising the level of his game with that approach,” said McConathy. “It’s easy to say, but it takes tremendous commitment to do that practice after practice, game after game.”
Adding in NSU’s 13 non-conference contests, Lane’s overall season averages were 13.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. He sank 50 percent of his shots, including 17 of 65 3-pointers, and made 61 percent at the free throw line. Lane averaged 1.4 assists and nearly one steal.
After starting 114 of his 117 games for the Demons in four seasons, Lane finished ranked in NSU’s top 10 of three career statistics. His 1,467 points (12.5 career average) stand ninth all-time in Demon history, while his 842 rebounds are eighth and his 169 blocked shots are third.
Lane led NSU in rebounding, blocks and shooting percentage in each of his four seasons. He finished with a career 52.6 percent shooting rate, including 36 3-pointers for a career 32 percent average. He was a 62.5 percent shooter on the free throw line as a Demon.