The Columbus Dispatch
SAVORING THE EXPERIENCE
Previous playing time helping Beechcroft’s Simmons
For as long as JJ Simmons has been playing basketball, he’s been trying to keep up.
As the son of a coach and with an older brother, Jelani, who played at Beechcroft from 2014-18 and now plays at Southern Indiana, Simmons always went up against older players. He quickly learned what it was going to take to hold his own on the floor.
“It’s just been his experience since he was a kid,” said Beechcroft coach Humphrey Simmons, JJ’S father. “He’s got an older brother in college, so he always had to do extra just to be on an even playing field. When he plays people his age it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve played with people older. I’ve played with people that are higher skilled.’ ”
Simmons has played heavy minutes for the Cougars since his freshman year in 2018. As a senior, for perhaps the first time in his life, the 5-11 guard will be one of the older players on the court.
He plans to leverage every bit of his experience to achieve the lofty goals he’s set for himself and his team.
“I want to be first-team All-city for the third time in a row, first-team alldistrict, first-team all-state,” Simmons said. “I want to average a double-double, with probably 20 points and 10 assists. Team goals, of course, I want to win our City-north, I want to win the City League championship, I want to win the district championship, win regionals and win states.”
Beechcroft won the City League championship last season before falling to Watterson in a district semifinal. City
League teams played a particularly short schedule due to the pandemic, which Simmons believes contributed to what he feels was an early exit.
This year, though, with a full 22game schedule and six seniors on the roster, the Cougars expect to make a deep run in the Division II playoffs.
“These guys played together in middle school, and some of them have experience playing together even younger, in elementary school or on travel teams,” Humphrey Simmons said. “They always ran across each other before playing in high school together. I believe that chemistry is huge, especially when it comes to the postseason. Sometimes, that’s what gets you over the hump.”
That chemistry is particularly evident between Simmons and fellow senior Amani Lyles, a 6-8 forward. Each averaged over 20 points per game last season, and through the first two games this year, the duo has picked up right where they left off.
“JJ, he loves playing with bigs,”
Humphrey Simmons said. “When he’s got bigs that can score and move, shoot the ball, that’s his advantage. He loves that . ... They put the extra work in before practice, in the offseason. They’re doing the extra just to get where they are. They’re very hungry.”
Some of that hunger, Simmons said, is fueled by the success his older brother had with the Cougars.
Saturday in an 83-35 win over Toledo Rogers, Simmons scored the 16 points he needed to record 1,000 for his career — a milestone that means more knowing Jelani reached the same mark when he was at Beechcroft.
But Simmons isn’t content just equaling what his brother did. After spending much of his early years trying to stay on the same level, he now has a chance to go a step further.
“I’m just trying to be better than him because he left a big mark when left,” Simmons said. “Everybody says he’s all this and that. I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps and be better than him.”