One of the top games of the high school basketball season took place in Washtenaw County last Friday when undefeated Ypsilanti Braves hosted the upstart Detroit Community Hurricanes. Most observers believed the Class A Braves, ranked #3 in the Detroit News Super 10, would run right over the Class C Hurricanes. When the game tipped off everyone learned just how wrong that prediction was.
The Ypsilanti backcourt tandem of Woody Payne L.J. Frazier had their hands full dealing with Community's Chase Simon. As his team's best player, the 6-5 185-pounder had to do a little of everything. He handled the Ypsi press with ease, led his team both in scoring, and was a force on the boards. When the dust settled, he had notched 23 points and 13 rebounds en route to helping his team push Braves to the limit before losing 75-70 in triple overtime.
"They're supposed to be the #1 team," Simon told GoBlueWolverine after the game. "We're class C. Nobody even looks at us. If we're a class C team and we stayed in the game with them like this, what does that say about us? After this, what do you think we're going do in the states? That was our game. We busted our (behinds) and played to the level of competition. We should have won."
Though it was a loss, Simon's displayed all of the skills that make him such an intriguing prospect. A crafty but not explosive player, Simon handles the ball very well for his size and does a good job of getting his shot off of the dribble. Furthermore, he is an unselfish player that does a good job of getting his teammates involved. He seemed to defer a little too much when we watched him in the summer, but he was a much more assertive player this time around.
The downside of his performance was he really struggled from the free throw line and wasn't the most consistent player on offense. Some of that inconsistency is obviously a product of the team he is on. Since he has to carry the scoring load for his squad, he has to put up a high volume of shots…even if some of them may be ill-advised. Even so, he'll need to keep improving his jumper. Despite those things, his significant upside potential has aroused the interest of a number of schools, including Michigan.
"Coach Jack was up at my practice on Monday (January 9th)," Simon said referring to the Wolverines newest assistant. "They are showing me a lot more attention because Tommy Amaker saw me at Country Day. He came to the Roundball Classic early to watch Deshawn play and he saw part of one of my games. He knew that Coach Jack was recruiting somebody from my school, and after watching me he said, 'that's got to be him.' "
Michigan's headman saw Simon again Wednesday when the youngster showed up in Ann Arbor to watch the Maize and Blue take on the Northwestern Wildcats. After the game the two got a chance to chat about their mutual interest in one another. "Coach Amaker is a cool guy," Simon said. "He said he was impressed with my overall game and he told me different things that I do on the court that he likes and the things that I need to improve on. He said he would like for me to come up anytime I wanted and to see if my mom could come with me. He also said he was going to come to a couple of games. I'm definitely looking at Michigan. I've got both eyes on them."
Amaker certainly will not be the only coach in the stands watching Simon play in the coming weeks. The number of schools calling to inquire about him is on the rise.
"I'm hearing from Marquette, Xavier, Syracuse, St. Bonaventure, Dayton, Michigan, and Wisconsin," Simon said. "Xavier has really been on me a lot. They've been in touch a lot this week because they wanted to make sure I watch their game against Cincinnati. Right now I've got offers Xavier, Dayton, and St Bonaventure, but I look for my recruitment to rise up after the summer."
When speaking of the top players in the state of Michigan in the class of 2007, names like Alex Legion, Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, and Dar Tucker are mentioned. Simon feels that his name should be mentioned in the same breath. In the coming months, he will be looking to prove it.
"I think right now I'm ranked in the top seven, but after the summer I think I'll definitely be top five," he said. "Last year I think I had a good summer, but I wasn't as aggressive as I know I can be. I'm getting better every week. I put in a lot of work. We don't have a gym, but I play with the Michigan Mustangs (AAU team) now, so every Saturday or Sunday I go in whatever gym they can get me in to work out. I've just been working on my game a lot and I can see it showing in the games. My jump stop is more consistent, I'm staying low on my dribble drive, I'm finding the open man, and I'm playing harder on defense. I'm doing things that I normally wasn't consistent with. I can just see myself getting better."
Michigan will be among the programs watching to see how much better.