Hard Work Does Pay Off
Junior Transfer Looks to Become a Top-Tier Big Ten Player
by Alex Morando, Ohio State Athletics Communications
For some collegiate basketball players, the road to Division I competition is not always right out of high school. Sometimes, other roads must be taken to get to the final destination; a place they have been dreaming about since shoot-a-rounds after dinner or pick-up games during recess. A decision must be made that will change their lives for the next coming years to play Division II basketball and keep their dreams alive. For a Chicago, Ill., native, the choice was made to play Division II, and after two years of determination and hard work, he finally got his name called to play Big Ten basketball for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Jeremie Simmons, the 2008 Junior College Division II Player of the Year, transferred to Ohio State after playing two seasons at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich., and Simmons is now looking forward to playing Big Ten basketball for the Scarlet and Gray this season.
“It took a lot of hard work to come here to a big program where there is a lot of tradition,” Simmons said. “It started in the summertime getting up earlier for workouts, and that took some time to adjust to.”
It all started for Simmons when Ohio State men’s basketball head coach Thad Matta announced the NCAA National letters of Intent to play for the 2008-09 season. On May 7, 2008, Simmons was one of two players signed to play for the Buckeyes with freshman Nikola Kecman also joining the squad.
“We are excited with the addition of another frontcourt and backcourt player,” Matta said. “Jeremie gives us another playmaker that also shoots well from behind the three-point line. In addition, both players come from winning programs.”
Simmons led Mott CC to the Division II National Junior College Athletics Association National Championships each of the last two seasons with a 35-3 record in 2007 and a 35-2 mark in 2008. Simmons learned a lot at the Division II level at Mott from Steve Schmidt, who in 17 seasons as head coach has built arguably the top junior college program in the nation.
“Coach Schmidt was a great coach and taught us how to play hard and pressure guys the whole game,” Simmons said. “And that just carried over and I’m just trying to keep that with me and bring it here.”
Not only will Simmons add more pressure in the backcourt for the Ohio State defense, but Simmons knows also how to put up points on the offensive side.
As a sophomore, Simmons earned a first-team NJCAA All-American, and All-Michigan Community College Athletics Association honors. He was also named the league’s player of the year by averaging a team-high 21.1 points per game with 268 of 555 (.438) made field goals, 122 of 289 (.422) three-pointers and 125 of 139 (.899) free throws made for a total of 783 points.
“I think I can bring scoring to the team obviously,” Simmons said. “I try and score for the team, but I’m trying to work on my defense so I can be accounted for on the defensive end too. I want to become the best player I can ever be by working hard everyday. I just want to be able to become that top player.”
After succeeding at the Division II level, the main reason Simmons left Mott was he wanted to test himself as a basketball player and Simmons said he wanted to see if he could compete at a high level.
Simmons knows that the competition level in Big Ten play at the Division I level will not be easy to adjust to and says that there are a few challenges for him to overcome in his first season as a Buckeye.
“I need to get stronger to play at this level, and to get in the best shape of my life,” Simmons said. “I need to be more consistent, and to work on my leadership skills on the court by being more vocal. I think if I do these things, it will work out fine this season.”
Since being apart of the basketball team in Columbus, Ohio, Simmons said it has been a surreal experience playing, and could of never imagined this opportunity growing up as a kid.
“Coming from nothing, I couldn’t have even imagined of coming here,” Simmons said. “The biggest support I’ve had is from where I grew up in the city of Chicago and my uncle Donnell Dubar. He’s been the biggest support in my life. He helps when I’m down on myself and tells me things are not as bad as they seem. He just helps me to stay focus and he’s been there for me no matter what.”
Besides basketball, Simmons has been enjoying adjusting to the Ohio State campus and is well aware of the tradition Ohio State has to offer for a student-athlete.
“It’s a real big campus,” Simmons said. “It’s real diverse and going out and having fun has been great meeting new people all the time. The fans really care about us and there is a tradition here. You can just feel it anywhere you go around campus with the whole O-H-I-O theme.”
In the classroom, Simmons has a passion in the study of mathematics and either plans to coach basketball or to become a math teacher. Simmons also enjoys playing videogames with his teammates when they are not on the court, and said without question he is the best on the team.
“I’m the champ in NBA 2K,” Simmons said. “We play that game a lot and nobody can beat me in that. No one can challenge me.”
When it’s close to game time, Simmons’ pre-game ritual is to turn on his iPod listening to The Game, Young Jeezy and T. I. to stay focus on the task at hand. Simmons said the Buckeyes this year will surprise people and be focused to become a squad in contention for the Big Ten Championship.
“Before the game I like to put on my iPod to stay focused for the game and zone out everything around me,” Simmons said. “I think we can surprise some people. We are real young but are very confident, and I think we can make some damage in the conference when it comes down to it.”