Talked to Salesian High (Richmond, Calif.) basketball star Desmond Simmons, a 6-7, 205-pound senior forward, last night before this morning’s news conference at his school when he’ll sign a letter of intent to play at Washington.
By all accounts it looks as if Simmons will be UW’s only commitment today. There’s still a chance Jefferson High (Portland, Ore.) standout Terrence Jones chooses UW over four other schools.
This is a rather lengthy interview partly because it’s my first time talking to Simmons and partly because he’s so chatty. Everyone I spoke to about Simmons seems to love the kid.
(How are you feeling?) “Right now, I’m pretty excited. This is a dream come true. I’ve dreamed about going college and playing college sports since I was little. It’s always been a dream of mine. Right now I feel like it’s a dream come true. I’m kind of on a high right now. To think about I’m signing my letter tomorrow morning to go play basketball at the University of Washington. A great program. A great university. I’m feeling pretty good right now.”
(I hear Salesian school officials are turning your signing into a mini-celebration. What’s that like?) “For me it’s an honor. I’ve been at this school for four years. And having your ups and downs with the school. It’s an honor for them to appreciate you and what you’ve done for the school. What you’ve done for yourself. For them to acknowledge it and take the time to put something together for me is truly a blessing and an honor. I just greatly appreciate what they’re doing for me. It’s humbling at the same time. It just makes you look at life and just appreciate the things you’re given and you’re blessed with. And so it’s definitely an honor that they’re taking the time out to do this event for me.”
(You sound like a mature kid. How old are you?) “Thank you. I’m 17.”
(How did this process come together for you?) “Before I committed in May, I heard from Paul Fortier here and there and they were always and interest of mine. I always checked them out when I could on TV and try to see what they were about. I felt talking to coach Cameron Dollar when he was at Washington, I started to get a vibe from them. Then I finally started to talk to coach (Lorenzo) Romar on the phone and I heard a lot of good things about Romar. I heard all these things, all these great things from people that knew him. They told me great things about him. And I finally got a chance to talk to him on the phone. I talked to coach Dollar and coach Fortier and they were just telling me about him. And when I talked to him, it was everything they said. They say he’s a regular guy that you can talk to. And when I talked to him I just got this vibe this is a real genuine guy that I can trust. Not that I couldn’t trust any other school, but I just had a real good vibe the first time I talked to him and that’s what kind of made me look really at Washington and check them out and see if this is the school I want to go to. And the visit just was over the top for me. Once I made that visit, I knew this is the place I could see myself for four years making it my new home.’
(Did you visit any other schools?) “I didn’t. St. Mary’s college was recruiting me and I was up there because they’re close to home so I got a chance to see the campus and be with the coaches and they got to show me around a little. But Washington was my only visit.”
(And I heard you drew some interest from Oregon State.) “They were the front-runners at one point. Coach (Craig) Robinson is a real good guy. I definitely had a real tight bond with coach (Nate) Pomeday and it was hard for me to tell coach Pomeday. I called him myself to tell him I chose Washington.
(I hear you’re changing your game and moving from the post to the perimeter.) “Yeah. This year I want to focus a lot more on my perimeter game. I’ll be playing that in college so just focusing on polishing that up and learning more and becoming an all-around perimeter player.”
(I hear you’ll likely finish as Salesian High’s all-time scoring leader. Is that important to you?) “I’m not too big on individual success. It’s definitely an honor to be the No. 1 scorer in Salesian history. It’s always great to have your name in the history books, but as far as individual success goes, I’m not too high on that. I would rather lead the school being the guy that won the most state championships with his team. Individual success is great. I’m not saying it’s not, but for me I would love to leave the school with the most state championships or the most wins. That’s probably my biggest goal.”
(Were you following the recruiting process of guys like Josh Smith and Terrence Jones?) “The recruiting process is very, you got to make sure you make the right decision. I know it’s a tough decision to make. This is where you plan on going for four years. I hope they take their time and make their decision wisely and choose the school that they feel is best for them. As far as me being the only person in the 2010 class that’s committed, you know I never really paid too much attention to it.”
(Did you play with any of the Huskies?) “Yes. I got a chance to play with them when I went on my visit I got to play in an open gym for a little bit. They just did a little walk thru. It wasn’t nothing too serious. I got to shoot around with some of the players and kind of get a chance to bond with them a little bit. I got a chance to bond with them as well at the camp. Get a chance joke around with them, compete against them. It was pretty cool.”
(Early reports say you’ll come in and fill Quincy Pondexter’s role.) “Being considered the guy coming in to replace Quincy Pondexter that’s something really exceptional. He is a tremendous basketball player and I love his game and the way he plays. I love it. I love watching him play. As far as being the one to come in and replace him, those are big shoes to fill. Like I said he’s a great player, but I’m up for the challenge to come in and try to fill his void and try to have the impact that he’s had on Washington over his four years.
(What are your thoughts on playing with Abdul Gaddy?) “I’m very excited to play with Abdul next year. He’s a great point guard. A very unselfish teammate. I’m very excited to play with him.’