Huskies Debuting A Rebounder Comparable to Brockman
Nov. 8, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Desmond Simmons was grabbing a game-high five rebounds in just 10 minutes of the first half in the Huskies' exhibition game last week when Matthew Bryan-Amaning felt compelled to endorse the redshirt freshman.
From half a world away.
"Des is definitely gonna turn some heads with how hard he plays and gets his hands on rebounds!!" last season's Huskies big man typed from Turkey Friday night on our GoHuskies.com live game chat. "havent seen anyone as determined for a rebound since `Brock.'"
Bryan-Amaning, who spent some of last season battling for boards underneath with Simmons in practice, is now playing professionally in Turkey. He was up at 4:30 a.m. there comparing Simmons' tenacity to that of - gulp! - Jon Brockman, the most fiendish and accomplished rebounder in UW history.
"Wow," Simmons said before Tuesday's practice when told of MBA's proclamation. "That's quite a compliment."
Washington handled Seattle Pacific 77-60 in that exhibition. And Simmons, rated the No. 25 power forward in the nation by scout.com out of Salesian High School in Richmond, Calif., handled the glass like Brockman did at UW. The current Milwaukee Buck forward amassed a school-record 1,283 rebounds in 131 Huskies games from 2006-09.
Despite being shorter than four Falcons, the 6-foot-7 Simmons finished with six rebounds in just 13 minutes.
"Exceptional," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said Tuesday, before another practice for Saturday's opener at 2 p.m. against Georgia State at Alaska Airlines Arena (on radio only locally in Seattle, and here at GoHuskies.com with another live game chat and GameTracker).
Immediately after Friday's exhibition, Romar didn't sound surprised at Bryan-Amaning comparing Simmons to Brockman.
"I'd have to agree with him," Romar said. "He's pretty relentless. He's really good at pursuing the ball, and has a real nose for the ball, just kind of understands where that thing is going.
"A lot like Jon Brockman."
Brockman, idled by the NBA lockout, has been around practices recently to give Simmons pointers of how to anticipate where a missed shot might go based upon where it is shot and on how to gain inside position.
That advice will likely come in handy again Saturday in Simmons' debut for the Huskies, against Georgia State. And it is timely. The two-time Pac-10 tournament champions have lost two of their top three rebounders from last season: Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday.
All eyes are on Washington's guards this season, and for good reasons: The arrival of Tony Wroten; Abdul Gaddy's return from reconstructive knee surgery; C.J. Wilcox's and, when he gets back next month from a broken foot, Scott Suggs' sharpshooting; Terrence Ross' explosiveness.
Inside, the Huskies will need to manufacture depth and production during the games that inevitably will turn into grudge matches, especially after Pac-12 play begins Dec. 29.
That's where Simmons' rebounding and determination in the lane will help 7-foot center Aziz N'Diaye, who returned fully to practice Tuesday for the first time since sustaining a concussion nine days earlier. N'Diaye is expected to start Saturday's opener.
N'Diaye will also get help with the return of 6-8 senior Darnell Gant, more low-post play the 6-6 Ross and the arrivals of freshmen Shawn Kemp, Jr. (6-9), Martin Breunig at 6-8, and 6-10 Jernard Jarreau.
If any of those young-ins emulate Simmons, Romar will be a happy coach for years to come.
"I always say with Desmond, you know when you go play pickup basketball you pick your teams, you pick your sides. And it doesn't matter who's in the gym it's `I got HIM' - because he's going to help you win the game somehow.
"That's what he is. He's that guy."
Romar says Simmons might help the Huskies win some nights this season by scoring points. Another night, it may be by rebounding. Still another night, he will provide shut-down defense.
"And at other times, his energy lifts his team - and that's all you needed on that particular night, that lift of energy," Romar said, sounding like he did when describing the UW career of Holiday, who is now playing professionally in Belgium.
"That's what (Simmons) gives."
He was on his way to giving that last season as a true freshman. But in an open-gym pickup game in September 2010, weeks before preseason practice began, he landed awkwardly snaring a rebound and tore the meniscus in his knee. After fits and spurts of trying to rehabilitate and come back, the Huskies redshirted him, and in January trainers told Simmons to basically shut down running for a couple of months to rest the knee.
It was the first time Simmons, who also played baseball for nine years until concentrating on hoops in high school, had ever missed time in a season because of an injury.
He finally felt like himself again in March. Eight months later he is poised to be Washington's impact addition many are overlooking, with Wroten's ballyhooed arrival and the Huskies' six other true freshmen.
That's OK. Simmons is used to sharing attention.
He grew up in Vallejo, Calif., in the North Bay Area, where his mother Cynthia Montgomery still lives. Older brother Christopher Simmons is a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher at nearby Contra Costa Community College.
He has two younger brothers who live in Arizona. Caleb, a seventh grader, and Noah, a fourth grader. Desmond proudly mentioned Noah was recently a top finisher for his age group in the high jump at a national track meet.
But he's closest to his mother.
"That is definitely my best friend," Simmons said. "For the most part, she (raised me herself). It was just me, her and my brother.
"We were always pretty close. Our bond is just so tight. She's the strongest person I know."
Simmons said his mother was sad to see him move to Washington and that "definitely there were some tears."
"But at the same time, she was extremely proud of me," he said, "that I am doing what I love to do and getting a great education at the same time."
Mom, Simmons' best friend, will be in Alaska Airlines Arena cheering on her son in his first three college games in the World Vision Classic. The round-robin tournament will also have UW playing Florida Atlantic on Sunday and Portland Monday night.
She is going to be seeing a potential difference maker in the Huskies' No. 30, scrapping for every loose ball like a superstar that wore 40 did for the Dawgs a few years before him.
"Brockman came to practice with us a few times, and my teammates have told me, `See what he does? That's what you do every day to us,'" Simmons said.
"That's a great compliment. I mean, he's our leading rebounder, playing in the NBA. To get a compliment about being like him, that's big to me."
QUICK SHOTS: Romar is entering his 10th season leading UW, where he was a guard from 1978-80. He smiled when he was asked how much longer he'd like to be the Huskies' coach. "That'd be sweet if it was another 10 years," he said. "I have sat back and reflected just how blessed I am. When you look across the country, there are not a whole lot of coaches at this level that have been able to stay 10 years. So I don't take that for grated, at all. I am very grateful." ... Romar hasn't decided what his starting lineup will be for the opener. He often remarks how it doesn't much matter who starts because of how often he rotates players in different combinations depending on opponents and game situations. That will be especially true early this season as he incorporates the six freshmen, the most he's had on a UW roster. The seventh, guard Andrew Andrews, is on his way to redshirting.