Just a couple weeks after seeing his season come to an end, forward Desmond Simmons announced via Twitter his decision to leave the Washington program. Having redshirted in 2010-11, the 6-foot-7 Simmons would have a season of eligibility remaining at the school of his choice. Ultimately Simmons chose Saint Mary’s, joining a program looking to return to the NCAA tournament after winding up in the NIT in 2013-14.
Simmons will be one of two Pac-12 transfers joining Randy Bennett’s program this summer, with former Stanford guard Aaron Bright being the other addition. And in a story written by Percy Allen of the Seattle Times, Simmons spoke about his reason for transferring from Washington.
Ultimately, it was about the role Simmons foresaw himself having in 2014-15 had he decided to remain a Husky.
“I just felt like after this year, in my opinion, I pretty much kind of envisioned what next year was going to be like for me. I thought it was going to be similar to this past season. I was looking to go somewhere where I feel like I can be more involved on both ends of the court, a little bit more offensively involved. I feel like – in my opinion – next year wasn’t going to be too much different from the past previous years. I guess that’s why (I’m leaving) now. And I don’t have to sit out a year.”
Also of note was Simmons’ mentioning of Saint Mary’s playing more of a 4 out/1 in style on offense, which in theory could result in more freedom for the graduate transfer on that end of the floor. As a redshirt junior Simmons posted averages of 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, and even with the departures of guard C.J. Wilcox and forward Perris Blackwell his offensive role was unlikely to expand in 2014-15.
Washington returns guards Andrew Andrews and Nigel Williams-Goss, with the former spending part of his summer playing in China with an all-star team put together by the Pac-12, and rising sophomore Darin Johnson figures to have a bigger role for Huskies after scoring nearly six points per game as a freshman.
As for the program Simmons will be joining the Gaels have to account for the graduation of leading scorer Stephen Holt, and that will result in more opportunities for returnees and newcomers alike. Brad Waldow (15.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Kerry Carter (9.3, 3.3) are the Gaels’ top two returnees, with no other players having averaged more than 3.9 points per game (forward Garrett Jackson) in 2013-14.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.