Vucevic earns most improved player award

USC sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic has been the named the Pac-10's most improved player, the conference announced today.

The award was determined by a vote of the conference's 10 coaches. Vucevic started all 30 of the Trojans' games this season and averaged 10.7 points and a conference-leading 9.4 rebounds. He was second on the team in points and second in blocks per game with 1.3.

A season ago, he played a significantly smaller role for a USC team that was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament, averaging just 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11 minutes.

The 6-foot-10, 220-pounder, who came into college a rail-thin 17-year-old, said Monday he was pleased to be awarded by the conference's coaches.

"It's nice to get that award," Vucevic said. "Everybody likes when you get a personal award and I'm happy because I spent a lot of time working all summer and it paid off."

But the Montenegro native said any award was bittersweet considering the Trojans' five-game losing streak that ended their 2009-2010 season.

"It would've been nicer if we had won to finish off the season," he said. "As a player, I always want to make my team win, and we unfortunately didn't win the Pac-10 [regular season] championship. But I think the season was pretty successful, as all throughout the season we played well as a team and I feel like I helped the team play well."

Vucevic was also named second-team all-conference and received honorable mention all-defensive team honors. As part of the rest of the awards, Cal's Jerome Randle was named most valuable player, Arizona's Derrick Williams was named freshman of the year, and Arizona State's Herb Sendek was named coach of the year.

USC's Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson earned honorable mention all-conference and all-defensive honors.