In a season with a lot of turmoil and lowered expectations at times one surprise player has emerged from the depths of the roster and has become a bright spot on the North Carolina Tar Heels that nobody expected Jackson Simmons.
Simmons was expected to be an end of the bench player seeing rare action when the team is blowing out their opponent, a glorified member of Blue Steel. With sophomores James Michael McAdoo and Desmond Hubert along with freshman Joel James and Brice Johnson ahead of him the above assumption was an easy conclusion to draw.
When called upon this season Simmons has done his job for the most part; he stays within himself, works hard and doesn’t try and do too much. Hustle is a phrase that has alluded this Tar Heel team far too often this season, mental lapses have become far too common, especially with the freshman which has opened the door for Simmons who has a great basketball IQ.
Jackson is not without flaws, he isn’t the typical player you would expect roaming the paint for Carolina, he’s not going to fill up the stat sheet with eye popping numbers; don’t expect to see him on Sportscenters top plays with any high flying dunks, he’s not going to do those things but this isn’t about what he can’t do, it’s about the hustle and intelligent plays he makes on the floor on a consistent basis when given the chance to play.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time criticizing the distribution of playing time this season and I’m not a fan of playing a freshman like Joel James one minute and sitting him the rest of the game like what happened in the Boston College game but that’s for another discussion. Whatever James did that Roy didn’t like in his one minute of action resulted in his and some of Brice Johnson who played 11 minutes resulted in extended action for Simmons and you cannot argue his effectiveness. Let’s take a look at Simmons performance against the combination of Hubert/James/Johnson
Simmons: 21 mins, 8pts (4-5 shooting) 4 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 TO, 1 foul
Hubert/James/Johnson: 25 mins 10pts (5-6 shooting) 5 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 TO, 4 fouls
If a category for hustle existed on the box score, Simmons would have crushed the other three combined, to quote Rasheed Wallace, ball don’t lie.