Typically I am not one that likes to admit when he is wrong, but I was very wrong about Jackson Simmons. On numerous occasions I have mentioned that I feel like Simmons is an end of the bench type of player who shouldn’t play unless the game is in hand. A guy that shouldn’t have a scholarship at a program like North Carolina. I was dead wrong folks.
Simmons’ story is a fun one to tell, just one that I didn’t think really mattered when it came to the success of the team. Simmons was a nice prospect coming out of high school a three star prospect from Sylva, NC Simmons was pursued by a ton of mid-major programs and could have played significant minutes at a smaller school, but he wanted to be a Tar Heel.
He was given a chance to walk on and earn a scholarship if UNC had one left over which they have the last two years. He doesn’t wow you with his athleticism, he’s not going to end up on any Sportscenter top plays highlights, he’s not a guy that opposing teams worry too much about. What he is, is a fundamentally sound player who keeps his composure on the court, hustles and gets after it. On Saturday he was given his first chance to play big minutes and he came up huge in the Heels first conference win of the season.
In 15 minutes Simmons scored eight points on 3-3 from the field, grabbed four of the teams 14 offensive rebounds, blocked a shot and had an assist. With James Michael McAdoo out with foul trouble Roy Williams went small with four perimeter players on the floor and showed a ton of trust staying with Simmons on the court rather than turn to Brice Johnson or starter Desmond Hubert.
While Simmons may not be a polarizing figure on the court he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses that the team has to compensate for. With Joel James on the floor you never know what you’re going to get, Brice Johnson struggles defensively at times and Desmond Hubert isn’t an offensive threat (unless of course he’s sizing up a dunk). Simmons can knock down the mid range shot, he’s money from the line, he plays solid defense, puts himself in the right positions and he rebounds.
So here’s to you Jackson Simmons, I’m glad you proved me wrong and I’m glad that Roy saw the potential in you, you just earned yourself some consistent playing time in my book young man.