Simmons has taken the national tour this summer after basking in obscurity a year ago with a small AAU outfit. It started with the NBA Camp and his game and confidence both progressed at the adidas ABCD Camp, where he excelled, and his summer season culminated in Orlando at the Super Showcase.
"It's been real fun," Simmons said. "The NBA Camp was the first national one I'd ever been to and I didn't play really well. I was really nervous and didn't know how to fit in with all the players the same caliber as me."
It didn't take him long to figure it out as he found his niche at the ABCD Camp, scoring from both the perimeter and also dunking on people with regularity while earning a spot in the All-Star Game.
Rivals.com has Simmons ranked at 58. Dave Telep has him at 36. Prepstars has him at 25. Hoopmasters at 31 and Clark Francis rates him the 29th best player in the Class of 2004.
Luckily for N.C. State fans, Sendek and his staff identified his potential long before nearly everyone else.
Simmons said he got the first piece of mail from N.C. State back as a sophomore at West Brunswick High. Wolfpack assistant coach Larry Harris saw Simmons play a couple times – once in AAU ball with the Wilmington Warriors and another at the Pepsi Challenge, a small tournament in Greensboro.
Sendek then took a look at Simmons at a tournament in West Virginia and again at the Pepsi Challenge and an offer was on the table later that week.
N.C. State was the first big-time school to put forth an offer. UNC-Wilmington had already done so and Wake Forest had started to show serious interest, but a couple things separated the Wolfpack from Wake.
"Wake didn't guarantee me that I'd play," he said. "N.C. State told me I could come right in and make an impact. That made a big difference."
"I also liked Coach (Mark) Phelps and Coach Sendek a lot," he added. "I like the whole coaching staff. There's not a guy on the staff that I didn't like."
Simmons is a small-town kid born in Supply, North Carolina, an industrial community. His mother, Mae, works in a cafeteria and also is a bus driver while his father, Thynell, drives an 18-wheeler all over the state.
Simmons grew up as more of a baseball standout on the mound, but gave up the sport in the eighth grade to concentrate solely on basketball.
"Baseball was too slow for me," he said.
Simmons, an avid video game junkie whose favorite game is NBA Live 2003, has already qualified academically to play as a freshman so now he'll just concentrate on his senior season and improving his overall game.
Notes: Anthony Morrow was supposed to play with Beach Ball Select in the AAU Nationals, but it didn't work out and few college coaches had a chance to see the Charlotte Latin (N.C.) star in July. Morrow still lists N.C. State at the head of his list, with Georgia Tech, Charlotte, Tennessee and UConn rounding out his top five. UConn is the only one yet to offer a scholarship, according to Morrow. … The Wolfpack staff remains interested in Gavin Grant, Morrow, Alex Galindo, J.R. Smith and James Mays. Grant appears to have Pittsburgh and N.C. State atop his list while Galindo is wide-open, but has recently caught the eye of the Arizona coaching staff. Smith is still waiting for an offer from North Carolina, which could come as early as this week. His other favorites are UConn and Villanova. Malik Hairston, a one-time N.C. State recruit, has blown up and will likely choose between Ohio State, Michigan State and UCLA. Another prior target is Iowa's Jimmie Binnie. After finding Turkish star Engin Atsur last summer at the European Championships, Assistant Coach Mark Phelps was overseas again for a couple of days scouting foreign talent.