PHILADELPHIA — For all intents and purposes, Justin Simon’s recruitment is done and overwith.
The 6-foot-5 guard from California committed to Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats in the spring, yet another in a long line of elite west coast recruits pledging to play in Tucson. It was a fairly early commitment for the five-star prospect, who ranks No. 23 in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals, as he made his decision prior to his final July live recruiting period.
What that means is that instead of heading out on the road over the course of the 15 evaluation days in July with a goal of proving himself to recruiters around the country, the most important month in an aspiring college player’s career has turned into, well, just another month for Simon.
“I’m glad my process is over,” Simon told NBCSports.com from the Reebok Breakout Classic this week.
A typical five-star recruit will spend his summer playing on courts that are lined with the kind of hall of fame-caliber head coaches and high major assistant coaches that would make an average college basketball fan blush, as the top programs in the country will make a point of tracking all the players they are targeting throughout the summer. Coaches that have already earned a commitment from a player will do the same, a recruiting technique known as babysitting.
As far as Simon is concerned, he’d be happiest if Arizona’s coaches were the only ones that didn’t show up to a game he played all summer long.
“I’d like to have some guys to play with,” Simon said with a laugh, driving home the point that he doesn’t need to be babysitted. He’d rather Miller and his staff worry about finding a scoring guard to replace Tyler Dorsey than be concerned with having to sit court side every time he takes the floor.
“Coach Miller’s doing a great job recruiting guys,” he said. “I chose Arizona because they have great locker room guys and great people already.”
At the high school and AAU level, Simon spends quite a bit of time playing on the ball. He’s 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, but he’s a very capable ball-handler and an excellent distributor. He has the vision and passing ability to make plays for his teammates when his penetration draws extra defenders, which is one of the reasons that he’s able to consistently rack up assists at this level.
The question is going to be whether or not Simon ends up as a full time point guard at the college level. As of now, Simon is at his best when he’s allowed to use his physical tools to make plays. He’s terrific in transition and athletic and rangy enough to make plays at the rim. He threw down a pair of windmill dunks during a game at the Elevate Hoops Showdown tournament. Simon is also a terrific defender, both on the ball and playing in the passing lanes, and when he has the ball in his hands in the open court, it’s a virtual certainty that someone on his team will be getting a high-percentage shot.
That skill set will make a player look excellent in AAU and camp settings. What happens when Simon is forced to run an offense, or bring the ball up while playing Sean Miller’s more deliberate tempo? The other question mark is his ability to shoot the ball. It’s no where near consistent enough, meaning that it would be possible to play far enough off of Simon to take away his driving ability.
“My jump shot around the arc, I need to develop that better, and more consistency on my pull-up,” Simon said.
Put all of that together and we get to a point where the question has to be asked: can Simon be a point guard on a team that will be competing for a national title, or is he a do-it-all perimeter player?
The answer to that question might lie in who the Wildcats landed in the Class of 2014: four-star point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, a 5-foot-9 playmaker. Or it might lie in who else Arizona is recruiting in the back court in the Class of 2015. They originally accepted a commitment from Tyler Dorsey before parting ways last month and have been heavily involved with — and have offers out to — both Isaiah Briscoe and Allonzo Trier. All three are ball-dominant scoring guards that spend a lot of time playing with the ball in their hands.
If Miller is targeting a perimeter attack of Jackson-Cartwright, Briscoe and Simon, does he really think that Simon is going to be a full-time point guard?
To a point, this conversation is moot, because regardless of what position Simon will play in college, he will be an impact player on both ends of the floor.