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USC's Alex Stepheson named Pac-10 men's basketball player of the week

December 21, 2009 | 11:58 am

Alex USC junior forward Alex Stepheson was today named the Pac-10 men’s basketball player of the week for Dec. 14-20.

It is the first such honor for Stepheson, a transfer from North Carolina and a Harvard Westlake alum who recorded his fourth double-double in the Trojans’ 77-55 upset of Tennessee with 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.

Playing 40 minutes for the first time in his career, he shot eight of 11 from the floor and was three of four from the free-throw line.

USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said after the game that Stepheson has greatly improved this season, and a big part of that is that he’s finally getting back in game shape after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

"After about 15 minutes in the first game he played, he couldn’t even walk,” O’Neill said. “I mean, he was dying. He’s getting better and better. He’s done a lot of extra work. Our trainer and strength guy have done a great job of getting him in there for extra cardio and lifting and stuff. He’s catching the ball better. He’s rebounding the ball. He’s got to keep making strides. He’s obviously not a finished product.”

Stepheson missed the first two games because of an injury, but in the last seven is averaging 13.4 points and is second in the Pac-10 in rebounding (10.6). He also leads the league in blocks (2.6) and offensive rebounds (4.29). Fellow Trojan forward Nikola Vucevic leads the Pac-10 with 10.7 boards per game.

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Alex Stepheson. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press

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