Thomas named first-team All-District 23 while Slessinger tabbed District Co-Coach of the Year
NEW ORLEANS – It has been just over a week since the University of New Orleans men’s basketball team ended its turnaround season, but the honors continue to roll in as senior forward Erik Thomas and head coach Mark Slessinger were recognized by the National Association of Basketball Coaches on Wednesday.
A native of Wesley Chapel, Fla., Thomas earned a spot on the NABC All-District 23 first team while Slessinger shared District Co-Coach of the Year with Alcorn State’s Montez Robinson. The honor is the latest in a long list for Thomas, who was previously named Southland Conference Player of the Year, first-team All-SLC and MVP of the Southland Tournament. Slessinger, meanwhile, was previously named Southland Conference Coach of the Year.
“For the University of New Orleans men’s basketball team to be honored by such a distinguished organization as the NABC is a tremendous accomplishment,” Slessinger said. “It is further validation of how far we have come as a program and fuels our collective fire to continue to work hard, remain relentlessly positive and maintain an undefeated attitude. The 2016-17 season and I look forward to seeing what the upcoming chapters hold.”
Thomas, who became the 16th UNO student-athlete to claim NABC All-District honors and the first since Bo McCalebb garnered first-team All-District 6 recognition in 2006-07, earned a spot on the team after leading the Privateers with 616 points, 19.3 points per game, 250 rebounds, 78 rebounds per game, 223 field goals, a 58.8 field goal percentage, 166 free throws, a 78.3 free throw percentage, 1,043 minutes played and 32.6 minutes per game. In addition, he ranked tied for second on the squad with 47 steals, fourth with 73 assists and 11 blocked shots, and tied for fourth with four 3-pointers.
Along the way, Thomas scored in double figures in all 32 games during the 2016-17 campaign with 15 20-plus point contests, including a career-high 31 after sinking 11-of-15 field goals and 9-of-10 free throws vs LaGrange on Nov. 11. He completed 11 point/rebound double-doubles to go with 18 multiple-assist, 17 multiple-steal and three multiple-block contests. Thomas tied career-high marks with six assists against both Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 23 and Southeastern Louisiana on March 2, and four steals at Abilene Christian on Feb. 1. He also logged as season-best 13 rebounds vs Central Florida on Feb. 18 and added a pair of blocked shots vs Florida College on Nov. 25, vs Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 17 and against Southeastern Louisiana on Feb. 23.
“This is an incredible honor for Erik and his teammates,” Slessinger added. “To be voted first team NABC All-District places him in some very lofty company in UNO’s storied basketball history. This honor is a testament to his hard work and dedication, and the support of his teammates and family.”
Slessinger, meanwhile, garnered District 23 Co-Coach of the Year honors after leading the Privateers to a 20-12 overall record, the Southland Conference regular-season championship courtesy of a 13-5 league record, and a trip to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship after winning the SLC Tournament with a 68-65 overtime victory against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on March 11 in Katy, Texas.
The conference championship is the first by UNO since sharing the Sun Belt in 1996-97 and the first outright title since the 1992-93 finished 18-0 in the SBC. The conference tournament championship and subsequent bid to the NCAAs is the first for the Privateers since 1996.
The team’s 20 overall wins and 13 conference victories are the most in six seasons under Slessinger’s watch and the most by a UNO team since the 1996-97 squad finished 22-7 overall and 14-4 in SBC action. The storybook season comes after the Privateers were picked to finish ninth and 10th in the Southland Conference standings a preseason vote of league head coaches and sports information directors, respectively.
“I am extremely humbled to receive this honor from my colleagues,” Slessinger said. “This award, however, it is much more of a representation of our staff – which worked so tirelessly to move our program and student-athletes forward – and team than myself.”
Thomas and Slessinger are two of five individuals from Louisiana-based schools to claim NABC All-District honors as Southern’s Zach Lofton and Tre’lun Banks were named first- and second-team All-District 23, respectively, and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Bryce Washington claimed second-team All-District 24 recognition. In addition, the UNO pair are two of seven Southland Conference affiliates to earn All-District 23 distinction as Rashawn Thomas of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Jordan Howard of Central Arkansas were named to the first team while Corpus Christi’s Ehab Amin, Lamar’s Colton Weisbrod and Stephen F. Austin’s Ty Charles were tabbed second team.