ALLEN - De'Andre Upchurch has cemented his spot among the top players in the Lone Star Conference.
After averaging more than 18 points in 14 regular season conference games, Upchurch was named to first-team all-conference at the LSC awards banquet Tuesday night at Courtyard Marriott.
He crossed the street from the lavish hotel to the Allen Event Center on Wednesday and backed up the honor with 22 points in No. 5 Tarleton State's 89-70 victory over West Texas A&M in an LSC Championship quarterfinal.
"It felt great. I mean, individual stuff doesn't matter to me at all compared to the team winning because that's all I really want," said Upchurch as he relaxed in one of the arena's stadium seats and enjoyed watching Angelo State and Cameron play in another quarterfinal Thursday afternoon. "But when you do get honored, it always feels good. I was smiling ear-to-ear and I know my teammates were happy for me."
Upchurch, who had 38 points at Eastern New Mexico on Feb. 22 and has averaged 21.4 over Tarleton's last nine games, is just happy any time he's around his favorite sport. Even if it's just watching two conference rivals go at it on a neutral court.
"I just love basketball, all the time. It's my life. I could watch it all day and play it all day," said Upchurch, a senior from Flint, Mich. "It's even a good thing just to be here watching the other games and relaxing, seeing two good teams play."
Speaking of good teams, Upchurch and the Texans are 25-2 overall and ranked second in the South Central Region as they work to defend their 2013 conference tournament title. But one thing he's learned in his two years around the LSC - nothing comes easy.
"The Lone Star Conference is good, it's tough," Upchurch said. "There are a lot of people on our team that could definitely play (Division I) and get in rotations, maybe even get in some starting lineups. And there are other guys like that around the league, too."
Upchurch was watching two of them Thursday in Angelo State's Kenny Williams and Cameron's Craig Foster. Both joined Upchurch and Tarleton point guard and LSC Player of the Year Chuck Guy on the first-team all-conference list.
Guy, who led the league in assists-to-turnover ratio, is one player Upchurch is especially glad to see wearing purple when they hit the court.
"Chuck is the best point guard in our league. I'm glad he's on my team," Upchurch said with a slight chuckle. "He finds me in the right spots all the time. He's a great teammate on and off the floor and I love him like a brother."
Guy isn't the only member of the Tarleton family Upchurch has grown especially close too.
"My time at Tarleton has been great. I've learned a lot about life and about the game, and I've grown a lot as a man," Upchurch said. "We have an awesome head coach in Lonn Reisman, another great coach in Chris Reisman, all our coaches really are good and are there for us. From breaking down film to practice to just listening to them and watching them, I've learned so much."
One thing he's learned is the thrill of cutting down nets after winning a championship. He was part of net cutting ceremonies at last year's conference tournament, and took part in another after Tarleton wrapped up a share of this year's LSC regular season crown.
Tarleton's focus now is on repeating as tourney champs and taking momentum into the South Central regional next week. The Texans return to the AEC at 8:30 tonight to face A&M-Commerce in the semifinals. The championship is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
"We feel good about what we've done, but we're not satisfied at all," said Upchurch. "We have to keep pushing and keep winning."