LAFAYETTE – After a record-setting year on the hardwood that included its first outright Sun Belt Conference title since 2000, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team returned to workouts over the summer in preparation for the 2018-19 season.
Louisiana, which finished 27-7 last season, spent the summer months in the gym that included four hours of skill work per week. The team will continue preparations for the upcoming season in late September before officially tipping off the 2018-19 season on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The new start date, which was approved during the NCAA Convention in January, moves up from its traditional Friday, while allowing the sport more days to squeeze in the season prior to New Year’s. The Ragin’ Cajuns, who will play 14 games at home during the 2018-19 season, will look to replace a five-man senior class that was highlighted by Frank Bartley, Johnathan Stove and Bryce Washington.
But the cupboard is far from bare as Louisiana returns starters JaKeenan Gant, Malik Marquetti and Marcus Stroman, plus 2016-17 starter Justin Miller and sophomore guard Cedric Russell.
“Losing three 1,000-point scorers in the same class, with one also grabbing 1,000 career rebounds, is a great loss. Their leadership helped us to a school-record 27 wins and we just ran through the (Sun Belt) conference.
“Last year’s transfer class, who were rated higher coming out of high school, are back and they will have to step up their role from fitting in, which they did beautifully, to now being the leaders,” ninth-year head coach Bob Marlin said. “They’ve all done a great job of that this summer. They’ve jumped out and led this young group and we’re coming together as a team.”
Juniors Jerekius Davis and P.J. Hardy are also back and will be counted on to return to their 2016-17 numbers in helping the Ragin’ Cajuns maintain success on the court. Another junior – guard Mason Aucoin – returns for his third season in a Louisiana uniform and will look to continue his development.
There are seven new faces on the roster, highlighted by transfers Jeremy Hayes (Howard College) and Jalen Johnson (Saint Louis). Johnson, who played his first two seasons for the A-10 Billikens, will sit out the 2018-19 season to fulfill the NCAA Transfer Rule.
Five freshmen – guards Eli Mouton and Trajan Wesley, along with forwards R.J. Gladney, Kobe Julien and Kristian Lafayette – will all look to adjust to the collegiate game in their inaugural campaign in a Ragin’ Cajuns uniform.
“I like our group. We’re talented,” said Marlin. “Cedric (Russell) is a great perimeter shooter and showed flashes of that last season. He had some inconsistencies and some injury, but he should step in for Frank (Bartley). Jeremy Hayes is going to step in and be a good defensive player for us.
“Trajan is going to be able to come in and we’ll have a little bit more depth at the point guard position. Guys like Jerekius (Davis), Justin (Miller) and P.J. (Hardy) have to return to playing the way we need them to play. Those guys will need to step up. We’re going to need the freshman also because Kobe (Julien) will probably redshirt the season.”
Gant averaged 13.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and led the Sun Belt Conference with 2.3 blocks per game in his first season in a Ragin’ Cajuns uniform and will be looked upon to lead the team on the glass. The Sun Belt Conference Newcomer and Defensive Player of the Year earned third Team All-Sun Belt Conference honors in his first season with the Ragin’ Cajuns and was a second-team NABC All-District pick.
Stroman finished second in the Sun Belt Conference in assists per game (6.5) while leading the league in assist/turnover ratio (2.2). The Columbia, S.C., native averaged 6.8 points per game for Louisiana with his 213 assists during the season ranking as the fourth-most by a Ragin’ Cajun in school history.
Marquetti also flourished in his first season in a Ragin’ Cajuns uniform as the versatile player averaged 8.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. The USC transfer finished second on the team in 3-point field goal percentage, going 52-for-126 from behind the 3-point line (.413) and played a big role on both ends of the floor.
“JaKeenan was the (Sun Belt Conference) Defensive Player of the Year and can certainly be the Player of the Year in our league,” said Marlin. “He’s one of the best athletes in the league. Our strength is at point guard. Marcus (Stroman) is different than any other point guard that we’ve had. He’s strong and can get into the paint. All-around, I believe he’s the best point guard in the league. He’s just a different type of player.
“We have a chance to have a really good team if we can stay healthy, have some good fortune and defend and rebound the ball.”
ROSTER BREAKDOWN BY POSITION
Guards (8): Mason Aucoin, P.J. Hardy, Jeremy Hayes, Malik Marquetti, Eli Mouton, Cedric Russell, Marcus Stroman, Trajan Wesley
Forwards/Center (7): Jerekius Davis, JaKeenan Gant, R.J. Gladney, Jalen Johnson, Kobe Julien, Kristian Lafayette, Justin Miller
ROSTER BREAKDOWN BY CLASS
Seniors (3): JaKeenan Gant, Malik Marquetti, Marcus Stroman.
Juniors (6): Mason Aucoin, Jerekius Davis, P.J. Hardy, Jeremy Hayes, Jalen Johnson, Justin Miller.
Sophomore (1): Cedric Russell.
Freshmen (5): R.J. Gladney, Kobe Julien, Kristian Lafayette, Eli Mouton, Trajan Wesley.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
High School Signee (10): Mason Aucoin, Jerekius Davis, R.J. Gladney, P.J. Hardy, Kobe Julien, Kristian Lafayette, Justin Miller, Eli Mouton, Cedric Russell, Trajan Wesley.
Junior College Signee (1): Jeremy Hayes (Howard College).
Four-Year Transfers (4): JaKeenan Gant (Missouri), Jalen Johnson (Saint Louis), Malik Marquetti (USC), Marcus Stroman (South Carolina).
Season ticket prices have been set for the 2018-19 season with seats beginning at $100. Fans who were season ticket holders last season may renew their seat locations online at RaginCajuns.com using Account Manager, or by calling the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office at (337) 265-2357.
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