To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Nebraska-Omaha SG Justin Simmons about being a student, an athlete and a father.
You are one of five seniors on the roster and you return four starters from last year. How big a factor do you think your team’s experience will be this season? Last year, we had players (including myself) coming in from various places, but now that we have played together for a year and had all summer to prepare we know what everyone can do on the court.
You do not have any players taller than 6’8” and you were out rebounded by almost eight boards per game last year. What is your team’s strategy for matching up with bigger opponents? It falls on the guards because we cannot match up with teams who have seven footers. The guards must block out, double-team the opposing big men, etc. If we do not box out in practice, then we have to run. We have enough speed and athleticism to get a rebound over a bigger person.
Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Iowa, UNLV, and Minnesota. Which of those games do you feel will present your biggest test? I would say UNLV or Minnesota. The Gophers have some good guards and a new coach, and UNLV has always been good. If we do what we can control then we should be okay.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? I think we can improve on last year and have a winning record. I would love to win conference player of the year and a few of my teammates to be named all-conference because there is not just one of us trying to do everything. Awards are nice because they usually are a result of wins, so hopefully we can click more this year.
You began your career at Concordia College, where you were a champion in the long jump and 400-meter dash. How much does your athleticism help you on the court? It helps a lot. Early on I would just play basketball but not really work at it. The training I put into sprinting allows me to run all day, and practicing for the long jump has helped my athleticism.
You have a son named Kastin. How do you balance being a father with being a student-athlete? It is not too bad. I see him at least once a month during the season, and I call him and Skype with him every day. It is hard to not be there. When I first left for junior college, it was very difficult because he was only six months old. I would stay up until three in the morning wondering if I made the wrong decision, but I know that I made the right decision because I am trying hard to take care of him in the future.
Derrin Hansen is about to begin his ninth year as head coach at NE Omaha. What makes him such a good coach and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him? Coach Hansen is really smart and knows where to put us on the floor at the right time. He is good at scouting and is great at preparing us for the next play.