Had a chance to talk to sophomore Desmond Simmons who is one of several players vying for minutes and the starting job at power forward.
The other candidates include: Martin Breunig, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Jernard Jarreau.
Simmons talked about a wide-range of issues before Wednesday’s exhibition against Western Washington. He’s anxious to see how the team will perform against the Division II champions. His role in the new offense has changed and requires him to be more of a “quarterback” who makes decisions with the ball. And you might be surprised who he picked when asked who has impressed you the most in practice.
Here’s the interview with Simmons.
(How are practices going?) “Practices have been going pretty good.”
(Why do you say that?) “I say that because I feel like everybody is competing and challenging each other. Nobody has been afraid to get after it. Guys get real into practice and it’s not a problem. I feel like we’re really good at pushing each other and nobody takes it the wrong way and that nobody is sensitive about it.”
(I’m curious about the new offense. What’s your take?) “The new offense I like it. It gives the the 4 and 5 guys more of a role. To use the coach’s term quarterbacking and become somewhat of a quarterback. We got to make reads and make decisions with the ball in our hands.”
(Is that something that you’ve had experience doing?) “I would not say tough. It’s definitely an adjustment from last year. But I wouldn’t say it’s nothing that we’re not able to handle.”
(What new responsibilities do you have?) “You just have to make more reads. That’s pretty much it. Everything else is still the same. You still got to rebound. Knock down shots. Maybe knock down more mid-range shots.”
(It’s conceivable your assists will go up?) “Yes. Definitely. [Simmons had 25 assists in 35 games last season.]”
(Are you comfortable having the ball in your hands and making reads?) “Yeah I’m comfortable doing that.”
(Tell me about the competition at power forward.) “I would definitely say I feel like there’s competition overall for the 4 and the 5. It’s likely to say the 5 spot is pretty much taken for Aziz (N’Diaye), but at the same time everybody competes for it. I don’t feel like we look at it like it’s the 4 spots that’s open. We look at it as minutes are open.”
(What is your mentality on that competition?) “My mentality is that same that it’s always been. To try and outwork my opponent and be the best at my position.”
(Had a chance to talk to C.J. Wilcox at media day and asked him who has impressed him the most. He said you’ve impressed him the most and said you’ve added weapons to your arsenal. What was he talking about?) “He’s probably just saying that in the summer time I came back with more of an offensive presence that wasn’t displayed last year. He probably saw a lot more of that this summer and leading into the season.”
(It was Darnell Gant who kept saying you have a game that people haven’t seen yet. So I’m curious, how would you describe yourself as a player?) “As a player I would describe myself definitely as an energy guy doing all of the little things. Loose balls. Crashing the boards. Making the extra play for my teammates as well as knocking down open open jump shots. Being able to score from the mid-range area and the blocks. Run the elbow. That’s how I would describe me.”
(Are you physically big enough to play power forward?) “I believe I am. I don’t have any doubt I’m not physical enough to play against people whether they’re bigger than me or not.”
(But at 6-7 and 220 pounds one could argue your game is more like Quincy Pondexter who is essentially a shooting guard in the NBA.) “Right. It’s fair to say that, but at the same time I don’t feel like if I had to guard a 4 that’s 6-9 and 250, I don’t feel like I couldn’t guard him.”
(What are you anxious to see in Wednesday’s exhibition?) “I’m going to be really excited to see how we compete against a college team. We’ve played against pros this summer and we feel like we did very well. I anxious to see how that carries over to Wednesday’s game. I feel like we’ve grown a lot since we’ve played overseas. I’m just interested to see how well we carry that into our season.”
(Is the chemistry better than last year?) “Yeah I feel like that’s a true assessment.”
(If that’s true, then how is that going to manifest itself on the court?) “Not to say that we weren’t looking for each other last year because we were. But I feel like we have better chemistry as far as making the extra plays and defensively. I feel like guys are buying more into the defensive system. I feel like that’s where you’re see it more is on the defensive end rather than the offensive end.”
(Since you’ve been at Washington this seems like the first time the Huskies are going into the season with low expectations. How does that feel?) “I feel like we don’t mind it. I know I don’t mind it personally because last year we were under the radar. And my redshirt year they were under the radar and they still made managed to do really big things. I like it personally.”
(Who has impressed you the most?) “I would say our walk-on Quinn (Sterling). He hasn’t come in with a walk-on mentality. Everyday he brings it in practice like he’s got a scholarship. The way he plays, he plays hard. He doesn’t just have a I’m going to sit on the sideline and be a practice player mentality. He’s there competing, playing and trying to get minutes.”
(When I talked to a few guys at media day, I got the impression that if there’s a team leader it’s either Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs or Wilcox. Is that accurate?) “I would say that’s very accurate. I feel like the guys – especially in the locker room – we definitely look to Abdul, C.J. and Scott for leadership. Just the way they approach practice and knowing that they’ve been here the longest. I feel like we look to them to guide us and pretty much lead us.”
(I took it a step further and said one of those guys or maybe two, but somebody has to be a star. Do you think that’s true?) “I don’t think so. I don’t think one has to be a star because I feel like they all do something very well and very different. I feel like C.J. is an excellent shooter. I feel like Gaddy is very good at running the team. And I feel like Scott is a great overall scorer. With them bringing different things I feel like no one has to be a dominant star. I feel like all three of them will shine in their own way and it will work great.”
(In terms of your season, what would you like to do this year?) “I would definitely like to improve on my rebounding numbers this year. [Simmons averaged 4.8 rebounds last season.] And be able to guard multiple positions. Those are pretty much my goals. Being able to guard 4 and 5s on down to the 2. Being able to guard a point guard off of a ball screen if we have to switch off to him. Being able to keep a guy like that in front of me. But mainly just raise my rebounding numbers.”