FRISCO – The Sam Houston State Bearkats racked up the postseason honors on Wednesday morning, pulling in a pair of superlatives from the Southland Conference, per a release from the league.
Junior guard Jaylonn Walker was named the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year, and head coach Ravon Justice was named the Coach of the Year. Additionally, Walker was a second team all-SLC choice, while Lydia Baxter was named to the third team and Jenniffer Oramas picked up an honorable mention nod.
Walker is just the second Bearkat to win the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor, and the first since Amy Sheiron in 1996. She transferred to the Kats from McLennan CC prior to the season and has made an immediate impact, leading SHSU in scoring with 15.3 points per game in 25 starts while ranking second in the SLC with 2.4 steals per game.
She reached double figures in 25 of 28 games played, including a season high of 27 in a win over Southeastern Louisiana on January 30.
Meanwhile, Justice has orchestrated one of the biggest turnarounds in the country this season. She inherited a team who won just seven games over the past two seasons, and went 1-17 in the league a year ago. She has directed the Kats to a 16-12 overall record, 11-7 league mark and the No. 5 seed in the SLC Tournament which begins on Thursday in Katy.
The 12-win turnaround is currently the third best of any program in the nation in 2018-19, but is the best of any program under the direction of a first-year coach. She has already locked in being the first Bearkat coach in its Division I history to have a winning record in her first year at the helm, and with two more wins this season the Kats would equal the program’s Division I record for victories in a season.
For Baxter, a senior with four years in the program under her belt, the honor is well earned and comes on the heels of her best season as a Bearkat. She has averaged 10.6 points and ranks third in the SLC with 8.3 rebounds per game, while hitting 48.5 percent of her shots from the floor.
She has been stellar in the middle for the Kats all year, putting up 10 double-doubles while reaching double figures in rebounds 14 times. She also set career highs this year with 27 points in a win at McNeese, and a 19-rebound performance in a win at home over Northwestern State.
Oramas rounded out the Bearkat honors with her honorable mention nod as part of a season that has seen her average a career-best 12.8 points and 4.7 assists per game. Her assist total ranks third in the SLC this season while she ranks 15th in scoring.
The junior guard reached double figures in 17 of 28 games on the season, including nine of the final 10 leading into the tournament.
Additionally, she canned 37.5 percent of her tries from 3-point range, a mark which also ranks within the top 10 of all players in the SLC.
The Bearkats will enter this week’s Southland Conference Tournament as the No. 5 seed and will take on No. 8 Central Arkansas on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. at the Merrell Center in Katy. With a victory they would move on to Friday’s 11:00 a.m. game vs No. 4 Abilene Christian.
Each of those games is slated to be aired on ESPN+ and the ESPN app. Tickets are available by visiting GoBearkats.com/Tickets, at Southland.org.