The college basketball nation is recognizing what the Pac-12 Conference has known for the past couple of years — Matisse Thybulle is the best there is when it comes to defense.
The University of Washington senior swingman was named winner of the 2019 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award, beating out some higher profile competitors such as Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga, De’Andre Hunter of Virginia and Zion Williamson of Duke.
The award, presented Sunday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club in Minneapolis, site of the Final Four, is in its second year. Last week, he won the Lefty Driesell Award for the same feat, presented since 2010 by CollegeInsider.com.
“Defense is exciting, and I believe we showed people that this year,” Thybulle said in a release by UW. “I’m just happy to represent this program on this stage because there are big things coming for the Huskies.
“I’ve put in the hard work day in and day out, and I have to credit my teammates because they have always had my back, both on and off the court. I was only able to accomplish this because of them.”
The two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year had 126 steals and 83 blocks for a combined takeaway total of 209, which led all finalists for the Naismith honor. His steals set the league single-season record, previously held by Jason Kidd of Cal (1992-93), and are the 10th most in a single season in NCAA history.
Thybulle, who started all 135 games of his career, owns the Huskies’ career steals record of 331 and passed Gary Payton (321 steals, Oregon State, 1986-90) for the Pac-12 career record.
“What an incredible honor for Matisse and so well deserved,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “I’m so glad the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award exists now because it really recognizes the effort that goes into the sport.
“Defense is 50 percent of the game, and what Matisse has done over his career is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my 24 years of coaching.”
Th4 6-5 Thybulle’s blocks ranked second in the Pac-12 and were most by a guard. He was the only player in the country to be ranked in the top 20 in steals (3.5, first) and blocks (2.31, 18th).
Thybulle, from Issaquah and Eastside Catholic High School, was the only player in the past 20 seasons to record 100 steals and 70 blocks in the same year, and is also one of three in that span to average two blocks and two steals in a season, joining Shane Battier of Duke (1999-2000, 2000-01) and Nerlens Noel of Kentucky (2012-13).
Washington reached its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2010-11 season, finishing 27-9, its most wins since 2004-05.