Ex-Trojans to play professionally overseas

While the NBA remains in an ongoing lockout, several former USC men’s basketball players will still play professionally this coming winter.

Stifling · Marcus Simmons (right), pictured here Feb. 24 at Galen Center against Arizona, was named 2011 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. - Carlo Acenas | Daily Trojan

Marcus Johnson, Marcus Simmons and Alex Stepheson, who each played for the Trojans at some point between 2008 and 2011, have signed contracts to play overseas in Sweden, Japan and Cyprus respectively, USC announced Tuesday.

Simmons, who was named the 2011 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year last season after stopping some of the conference’s premier scorers such, as Arizona’s Derrick Williams — who was drafted No. 2 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in June’s NBA draft — has signed to play for the Yokohama B-Corsairs of the Japan Basketball League.

When guarding Williams during a Feb. 24 upset victory over Arizona at Galen Center, Simmons held the forward to eight points on 3-for-11 shooting. The 6-foot-6 Simmons averaged 5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for the Trojans a season ago. He was recruited out of Peabody High School in Alexandria, La., by then-coach Tim Floyd and joined the program in 2007.

“You want to get players that reflect your personality,” Yokohama coach Reggie Geary told USCTrojans.com. “Marcus Simmons is a hard-nosed, tough defender like myself — a person who’s made a name on defense, but by all accounts offensively is someone who I think is going to blossom.”

Stepheson, who logged more than 1,000 minutes at center for USC last season — averaging a near-double-double with 9.8 points and 9.2 rebounds — will play for the Proteas EKA AEL of the Cypriot League in Cyprus.

Johnson, who last played for the Trojans during the 2009-2010 season, will play professionally for the Sundsvall Dragons of the Swedish Basketball League. As a senior, the 6-foot-6 Johnson was USC’s third-leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Last season he played professionally in Croatia.