Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Simon named Big East Defensive Player of the Year

St. John's will play in NCAA tournament starting Wednesday


Last updated 3/18/2019 at 5:22pm

Courtesy of St. John's University

Former Temecula Valley High School standout Justin Simon was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Big East for his play with St. John's University this season.

Former Temecula Valley High School standout, Justin Simon, became the third player in the history of St. John's University to be named Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches in the Big East.

The redshirt junior is regarded as one of college basketball's best lockdown defenders and joins former Red Storm greats, Mark Jackson in 1987 and Sir'Dominic Pointer in 2015, in earning the honor.

During the 2018-2019 season, that saw the Red Storm reach the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament before losing to Marquette, Simon ranked third on the team and seventh in the league with 1.4 steals per game after leading the league last season with 2.48 steals per game.

But it wasn't the numbers that earned Simon the honor, he became the team's defensive stopper and stood out in a pair of Red Storm wins earlier in the season against Marquette where he guarded NCAA National Player of the Year finalist Markus Howard.

Simon "helped limit the Big East's leading scorer to just 12.5 points per game on 21.8 percent shooting from the floor and 37.5 shooting from beyond the arc," according to a press release by St. John's.

Howard is averaging 25 points per game this season.

He also helped shut down Villanova's Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, limiting the pair to 4-of-22 shooting from the field in a 71-65 Red Storm victory at Madison Square Garden.

Though Simon is a 6-foot-5 guard, he led the team this season in blocked shots with 19, helping the team to rank 33rd nationally in turnovers forced per game (15.52), 12th in steals per game (8.8) and fourth in turnover margin (+5.1).

During his junior year at Temecula Valley in 2014, Simon led the Golden Bears to the best season in school history, the most wins in school history, an undefeated league season and championship and took the Bears to the CIF-Southern Section divisional semifinal.

That year he averaged 17.5 points and was named MVP of the Southwestern League and made the all-CIF First Team.

After the summer of his junior year, Simon announced he would be transferring to Wolfeboro Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for his senior season.

At the start of the season at Brewster, Simon committed to play for the University of Arizona. But after just one season, Simon transferred to St. John's to play for NBA Hall of Famer and St. John's alumnus Chris Mullins.

He considered Oklahoma State, Providence, New Mexico, and Pacific, but ultimately choose the Johnnies.

After the quarterfinal exit at the hands of Marquette, 21-12, St. John's will play as a First Four team in the NCAA March Madness tournament, taking on Arizona State on Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

The game will be broadcast live on truTV with tip-off tentatively scheduled for 9:10 p.m.

The winner of Wednesday's game between the Red Storm and Sun Devils will play sixth-seeded Buffalo in the West Bracket on Friday in Tulsa, Okla.

Jeff Pack can be reached at [email protected]


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