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This feature story is from the February 2006 issue of the Pack Pride Magazine. To learn more about the publication and how to subscribe, click on the link below ...

  • Pack Pride The Magazine

    THE BEAST From The Green Swamp
    NC State's basketball team has its own version of a superhero these days: THE BEAST FROM THE GREEN SWAMP.

    Pack Pride Magazine
    February 2006
    WORDS: James Henderson
    PHOTOS: Jason Cole

    T
    he "beast" part came from his former teammate. When Julius Hodge was in town in early December to have his jersey honored, he took one look at Cedric Simmons' newly enlarged physique and exclaimed: "Cedric is a beast!"

    Although he's soft-spoken and even a little shy, the NC State sophomore center has definitely been a beastly presence on the court early in the 2005-06 season, leading the team in scoring and rebounds in the early going and blocking shots with reckless abandon. He's added 20 pounds of muscle to his sinewy frame and is playing with confidence and aggression.

    But the green swamp?!?!

    No kidding. That's where Simmons says he's from. Early in his Wolfpack career, the roster listed his hometown as Shallotte, North Carolina. That information, however, was a little misleading.

    "I'm really from Supply," he admits in his hard-to-hear voice. "Shallotte is the big town - Supply is about 15 minutes away."

    Simmons denies that the population of Supply, which is located about 10 minutes from Holden Beach not far from the North Carolina/South Carolina border, was reduced drastically when he came to college. But he is honest about what amenities are found in his hometown.

    "There is nothing there really. There are a couple of stores, but not big ones. If you want to go to the grocery store, you have to drive to Shallotte. There's a Super Walmart there."

    Although it doesn't sound like Supply, N.C., would be big enough to have different sections, Simmons says that the area of the town where he grew up is known by a different name.

    "It's called the Green Swamp," he laughs. "I don't live IN the Green Swamp, but it's in my backyard. It's really just a bunch of pine trees."


    "We built treehouses and clubhouses, and rode bikes through there. We hunted squirrels and rabbits back there too. It was a good place to play."
    Not only did the name add fun to their play, but when Simmons and his older brother, Thynell, were young, they spent countless hours playing in the Green Swamp.

    "We were back there all the time," he recalls. "We built treehouses and clubhouses, and rode bikes through there. We hunted squirrels and rabbits back there too. It was a good place to play."

    As a kid, Simmons loved being outside, so its no wonder that baseball was his favorite sport when he was little. That is, until he was in fifth grade and tried to cover home plate after throwing a wild pitch. The result was a 200-pounder sliding into his leg and breaking his ankle. And that was the end of his baseball career.

    But that didn't slow down his athletic career. He just decided to stick with another outdoor sport that he loved - basketball.

    "I started playing basketball in my front yard," Simmons says with his shy (or is it sly?) smile. "We had a goal in front of our house and the court was half-dirt, half -paved. I played on the paved part when I was real little."

    Simmons says that he now knows that what he was doing wasn't really playing basketball, it was more just playing.

    "It was really more just pretending to be a basketball player more than it was playing basketball," he says. "I would be out there every day trying to do what I saw the NBA players do on TV. I usually pretended I was Kevin Garnett or sometimes I would pretend I was Tim Duncan trying to shoot a bank shot."

    If the Simmons' backyard was the Green Swamp, as he got older, Cedric's front yard became the neighborhood hangout.

    "When we started playing with teams, we played on the dirt part of the court. We played all the time."

    When asked if his ability was obviously superior to his friends', Simmons shakes his head.

    "It's not so much that I was better, but every time they would leave and go home, I would still be out there playing. When it got dark, I would turn the lights on and play. Then my brother would stop, and I would keep playing by myself... just playing and shooting. I loved it. I wanted to work on moves so when we were playing again I could try them on someone. I was real competitive. I remember working on a spin move all the time, up-and-unders, fakes. I was always playing basketball."

    Simmons began to fancy himself as a pretty good player... that is until he began to play organized hoops in the seventh grade.

    "I found out real quick that I really didn't know anything about the game of basketball," he laughs. "I didn't know about three seconds or anything.

    "And my offense was terrible! I couldn't shoot, I could just dunk. Obviously, I didn't play that much."

    But there was one area of the game that Simmons said he did excel at.


    "And my offense was terrible! I couldn't shoot, I could just dunk. Obviously, I didn't play that much."
    "I could block shots," he says with a satisfied grin. "I remember in one middle school game, I had 18 blocked shots. I wasn't that much taller then than the other guys, it was just my timing. We played against teams with a lot taller guys, but I could always block shots. The rest of the game was something I had to learn. I learned fast, but I was pretty bad at first."

    Simmons continued to improve throughout middle school and during his time at West Brunswick High School. He credits his high school coach, Dan McGougan, with helping shape him into the type of player who would end up playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    "My first couple of years, he was really on me," he says. "He would be real mean - I wanted to quit one time in ninth grade. I thought, ‘Basketball cannot be this hard.' But I guess he knew what it took to get to the next level, and he knew he had to push me."

    Simmons committed to the Wolfpack prior to his junior season because he said NC State always seemed like the "right place." He also says that being at a place where his family could easily travel to his games was very important to him. He and McGougan attended almost every one of the Wolfpack's games during his senior year, so he was already a familiar sight at the RBC Center before he ever put on the red and white uniform.

    "I think it's a big accomplishment to be here coming from where I'm from," says Simmons. "This might sound bad, but being from a small place, it's almost like people expect you to do bad. There were a couple of good high school players before my time that didn't make it, and I'm sure people expected the same thing from me."

    Simmons saw frequent action as a freshman, but nothing like the time he's seeing as a sophomore. He agrees with basketball experts who say that the center position is the toughest to learn in the Wolfpack's motion offense, and he admits that he spent a good part of last season getting familiar with it.

    "In high school, I was used to posting up and everything, and now I have to go up and set screens at the top of the key. I still can't shoot the three-point shot, but I know that my position is a big part of this offense. My comfort level is so much higher than it was at this time last year. I know what to look for and what to expect. Now instead of having to think all the time, everything just flows and I think my ability can come through more.

    That ability was at its most obvious in the Wolfpack's three-point loss at 14th-ranked Iowa. Not only did Simmons post his first career double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but he also became the first player in NC State history to boast five or more assists (five) and five or more blocked shots (8) in the same game.

    Those are fitting statistics for someone known as "The Beast," but there is one part of Simmons' game that is anything but beastly. Check him out after a monster dunk... or a big block... or even a turnover... and you'll see the most non-beastly smile you can imagine.

    "Yeah," he says as that same smile lights his face. "I've always been known for my sneaky grin. It's hard not to smile! When I was younger, I would get in trouble in class and the teacher would be yelling at me and I would be smiling. It would make them madder!"


    "I've always been known for my sneaky grin. It's hard not to smile! When I was younger, I would get in trouble in class and the teacher would be yelling at me and I would be smiling. It would make them madder!"

    Simmons says that the other guys on the team do like to pick on him about being from such a small town as Supply. But he says he's proud of where he's from and hopes that in the future that town will be proud of him.

    So is there a sign at the city limits that says, "Welcome to Supply, Home of Cedric Simmons?"

    "I think there will be one day."


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