The Pac-10 conference announced their All Pac-10 teams and postseason awards this morning. USC's Nikola Vucevic was named Most Improved Player of the Year and also landed on the 2nd team.
This is a nice honor for Vucevic, as the sophomore was a relatively unknown player from last year's NCAA Tournament team. With a talented starting five and a coach in Tim Floyd who wasn't too found of substituting, he didn't get a whole lot of playing time in 2009. Luckily, finally receiving significant minutes as a starter under first year head coach Kevin O'Neill, the Serbian-Montenegro native excelled on both ends of the court. From the official USC website:
Vucevic led the Pac-10 in rebounding at 9.4 per game and became USC's first conference rebounding champion since Jaha Wilson led the league with a 10.1 average in the 1994-95 season. Vucevic posted 10 double-doubles this season and averaged 10.7 points per game, after averaging 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman. The native of Bar, Montenegro led USC in rebounding in 22 of 30 games and registered seven or more rebounds in all but four games. Vucevic also finished second on the team with 39 blocks for an average of 1.3 per game, sixth-best in the Pac-10.
However, Kid Euro, as the message board geeks collectively call the sophomore forward, wasn't the only Trojan to be recognized after a strong 2009-2010 campaign. Senior guard and captain Dwight Lewis, who led the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game, was named All-Pac-10 honorable mention for the first time in his four year career. A fitting end for a guy, who leaves USC as its all-time leader in games played with 133 and 10th all-time in scoring with 1,460.
Furthermore, fellow senior Marcus Johnson was recognized for his defensive abilities, as the UConn transfer was named a honorable mention to the Pac-10 All-Defefensive team after leading USC with 42 steals (a 1.5 steal per game average good for sixth in the conference). Johnson was arguably the best one-on-one defender for a team that led the conference in fewest points per game allowed (57.2) and opponent's shooting percentage (38.4). His performance was so impressive in 2010 that he even got O'Neill, who is notoriously tough on players, to sing his praises on multiple occasions when speaking with the media.