(Montgomery, Ala.) Following one of the most successful regular seasons in program history, five members of the Loyola University New Orleans men’s basketball team garnered awards at this evening’s Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) men’s basketball awards banquet in Montgomery, Ala.
Headlining this group of exceptional student-athletes is SSAC 1st Team All-Conference and SSAC Defensive Player of the Year winner Johnny Griffin Jr. (SR/Chicago, IL.) The Chicago native currently leads the conference with 291 total rebounds (breaking the individual season school record he set last season), while ranking second in field goal percentage (0.537), steals (56), total rebounds per game (10.03), offensive rebounds per game (3.76), and defensive rebounds per outing (6.28). An absolute force around the rim, Griffin Jr. sits fifth in the league with 27 blocks and blocks per game (0.93) and comes in just behind senior Nate Pierre (SR/Folsom, La.) for the team lead in both categories.
Nationally, Griffin Jr. ranks third in the NAIA in offensive rebounds per game and total rebounds. Overall, the transfer for NCAA DI Chicago State lands inside the top 40 in the nation in nine major statistical groups.
The second leading scorer on the 21-8 Wolf Pack at 14.5 points per game, Johnny has scored in double figures in all but six games this season, highlighted by a season-high 26 points against conference rival Bethel on Jan. 14. Griffin Jr. has the second-most double-doubles in the league this season at 14 and he grabbed at least 10 boards in 15 contests throughout the season. Despite only playing at Loyola for two seasons, Griffin Jr. currently sits sixth on both the Wolf Pack’s all-time career rebounding list (578) and all-time career blocks list (64).
This is the second-straight SSAC 1st Team All-Conference honor and first career SSAC Defensive Player of the Year accolade for Griffin Jr. A LSWA Third Team All-State and DI MBB All-American Honorable Mention honoree last season, Griffin will have the opportunity treat the nation to his incredible dunking ability as he was recently invited to the participate in the 2017 NABC-NAIA Shoot & Slam on March 18 at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
Joining Griffin Jr. on the first team is junior guard Nick Parker (JR/Port Allen, La.). In his third season with the Wolf Pack, Parker leads the team and ranks eighth in the SSAC with 14.9 points per game. Nick ends the regular season ranking inside the top 10 of the conference in both three-pointers made per game (1.9) and total three-point field goals made (55) while sitting tenth in both steals (42) and steals per game (1.45). A one-time SSAC Player of the Week winner, Parker currently is second the Wolf Pack with 42 steals and 74 assists while his 77% shooting from the charity stripe is tops on the squad. Appearing in 29 games this season, Parker has scored in double figures in 21 contests and he enters the postseason having scored at least 10 points in the last eight-straight games.
This is the first career SSAC 1st Team All-Conference honor for Parker as he was named to the second team last season after finishing the year second on the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game.
Perhaps one of the best all-around players in Wolf Pack men’s basketball history, senior Jalen Gray (SR/New Orleans, La.) ends the regular season with a 2nd-Team All-Conference accolade. Appearing in 29 games this year, Gray leads Loyola with 120 assists while ranking third on the squad with 12.1 points per game. His 120 helpers this year are the most in the SSAC while his 4.14 assists per contest are second most in the league. Gray recorded the highest number of assists by a player in the SSAC this season after handing out 11 dimes against Xavier University on Nov. 15.
A recent addition to the 1000-career points club, Jalen’s 1202 career points are the 17th most in the history of the program. The New Orleans native’s 367 career assists land Gray at No. 3 on Loyola’s all-time assists list while his 112 steals place him ninth all-time.
Jalen has scored in double figures in 20 contests this season at recorded least five assists on nine separate occasions.
The finance major also was named to the 2016-17 SSAC All-Academic Team, marking the third-straight time the guard has earned the distinction.
Senior big man Nate Pierre also left Montgomery with some hardware on Thursday as he was named a SSAC Champion of Character. The Folsom native ended the regular season leading Loyola and ranking second in the SSAC with 1.3 blocks per game while ranking third in the league with 35 blocks. Nate’s six blocks against Coastal Georgia on Jan. 28 were the most by a player in the SSAC this season and his 148 rejections land him at No. 3 all-time in Wolf Pack history.
Majoring in business, Pierre also earned a spot on the 2016-17 SSAC All-Academic Team, giving the center three conference all-academic awards for his career.
Sophomore guard Ethan Turner (SO/Covington, La) (Finance) rounded out Thursday’s winners for the Wolf Pack as he was named to the SSAC All-Academic Team for the first time in his career. Turner has appeared in all 29 games (making 28 starts) this season and averaged 6.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in 22 minutes per contest.
Entering the postseason at the fourth seed, Loyola will take on No.5-seeded Faulkner University on Thursday, March 2, in a quarterfinals matchup set to start at 9:45 p.m. Live stats and video links can be found at www.loyolawolfpack.com.