Men’s Basketball: Payton Named Lefty Driesell Defensive Player Of The Year
DALLAS – After a season in which he was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year while becoming the school’s all-time leader in steals, Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns standout Elfrid Payton was named on Friday as the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year by CollegeInsider.com.
Payton, who selected as a finalist for the award and was named to the Lefty Driesell Defensive All-America team on Monday, earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference and NABC all-district honors for the Ragin’ Cajuns while guiding the team to the Sun Belt Conference championship and berth in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships.
The award is one of many for the Gretna, La., native who spent last summer as the starting point guard for Team USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship, helping the team to the gold medal. The John Ehret High product took part in a seven-game goodwill tour of China and the Far East with Reach USA, where he led the team in scoring in seven games.
"To earn the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year award is a tremendous honor, not because it only represents the mid-major level, but it represents all of (NCAA) Division I basketball," Payton said. "This award means a lot, especially in how much pride I take in playing defense."
As a junior, Payton led the Sun Belt Conference in steals for the second consecutive year, recording 80 and increasing his school-record total to 197. The 6-foot-3 Payton finished second on the team in rebounds (6.0) and was part of a defensive unit that led the Sun Belt Conference in rebounding margin and was second in steals.
Payton averaged 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game in helping the Ragin’ Cajuns back to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2005. Payton scored in double figures in 32 of 35 games played, including 14 games with 20 or more points and four 30-point performances.
He was one of 10 Division I players during the season to record a triple-double when he scored 34 points, with 11 rebounds and 11 assists at ULM. Payton scored 31 points in games against Houston and Western Kentucky and 32 against Oakland while posting six double-doubles, including games at Louisiana Tech and defending national champion Louisville.
Payton was selected over a talented pool of players that included Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young of Florida, Willie Cauley-Stein of Kentucky, Nick Johnson of Arizona, Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Joel Embiid of Kansas.
"There are a lot of great players in college basketball, but to win an award of this magnitude is a great tribute to Elfrid’s work ethic," head coach Bob Marlin said. "He is a young man that prides himself in hard work and providing leadership on the basketball court and this award is a testament of all the hard work that he has put in."
The Lefty Driesell award is named in honor of coaching legend Lefty Driesell, who is the only person to ever win 100 games at four different Division I schools. He is best known for his time at Maryland, leading the program to the National Invitational Tournament title in 1972 and its second-ever ACC Tournament Championship in 1984. He finished his career at Maryland with a 348-159 record and concluded his career with an impressive 786-394 mark.