Pac-10 honors Simmons for defensive play

After USC’s astonishing 62-46 win over Arizona State on Feb. 26, USC coach Kevin O’Neill closed his post-game press conference with a short message for the rest of the Pac-10: “If Marcus Simmons isn’t the defense player of the year for the conference, I don’t know who is.”

Shutdown defender · USC coach Kevin O’Neill has typically placed senior forward Marcus Simmons on the opposing team’s primary scoring threat no matter his size. - Tim Tran | Daily Trojan

O’Neill’s statement was heard loud and clear as Simmons was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year by the conference’s coaches Monday.

Junior forward Nikola Vucevic was also named to the All-Pac-10 first team.

“I am really fired up for those guys,” O’Neill said. “They both deserve it. Without those two guys, we would not be anywhere, so I am glad that they both got rewarded.”

From shutting down Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor, Washington’s Isaiah Thomas to Washington State’s Klay Thompson and everyone in between this year, Simmons has been the glue for a Trojans team leading the conference in scoring defense, allowing only 62.9 points per game.

Although his statistics (0.3 blocks and 0.7 steals per game) don’t jump off the page, Simmons’ flexibility at defensive end has allowed O’Neill to stick the senior on the opposing team’s top player regardless of his size advantage.

Simmons is the first USC player to win the award since forward Taj Gibson claimed the honor following his junior season in 2009.