Watching Cedric

TSW correspondent Gregory Clemmons takes us up front and close on Cedric's performance last night against White Oak High School.

As I made my way into the White Oak gymnasium Tuesday night, I arrived early so I could get a perspective on how the fans were feeling about hosting a division 1 prospect. It did not take long to pick up the vibrations in the gymnasium, which made it feel like big time basketball had hit the area. I took my seat high atop the gymnasium and even though I had a Wolfpack sweatshirt on no one seemed to notice as I began to watch carefully every move Cedric Simmons made in preparation for the game.

Warming up Cedric glided through the drills with a couple of dunks, and sweet jumpers from the top of the key. His expressions, body language and demeanor never changed from the drills through the end of the game. Some might say this is a positive but during the game I would have liked to have seen more excitement from him, which might have turned the game around. Never once did Cedric try to show up the other team or come down hard on his teammates when things did not go West Brunswick's way. The bottom line here is this young man tries to be a team player on a team that lacks talent. He gets an A+ in my book for attitude.

Physically for a junior in high school Cedric is way ahead of the curve. Matched up against a player his own height, in the White Oak game, he made him look small. He has outstanding leaping ability, extremely long arms and hands that make a basketball look like a tennis ball. I was never able to see him mix it up on the inside during the game with the opponent for he chose to stand around on the perimeter to take the jump shot when it came available. On this night he shot 3-12 from the field and 0-4 from the three point line, which was somewhat of a disappointment to say the least.

Even though he ended up with just 10 points for the night, his shot selection was not poor. He has a very smooth jump shot and the ball just floats to the goal with a high arch. In my opinion if he continues to work and then gets assistance once at NCSU from those coaches, he will be alright. Only twice did he choose to play back to the basket and was 1-2. His greatest strength right now is his free throw shooting, going 4-5 from the line. He squares to the basket and shoots with great ease and confidence.

Defensively Cedric has a lot of work ahead of him if he expects a large amount of playing time at the collegiate level. He relies too much on the fact he is the tallest and many times the largest player on the court. The young man he was assigned to guard on this night ended up with 16 points and took the headlines the next day in the morning paper. His opponent constantly beat him to the spot, on both ends of the court. One could tell the young man Cedric was guarding came to play and was motivated to be going up against a division 1 prospect. On a positive note, the West Brunswick junior ended the game with 6 blocked shots and 9 rebounds. Two particular blocks sent the opponent flying to the gymnasium floor and at the same time brought a roar from the fans of both teams.

As I mentioned earlier, Cedric seemed to stay out on the perimeter. At 6-10 he never seemed to go inside to challenge the other team. I definitely feel like he needs to learn to play better around the basket where he could dominate the game. Until his shot comes around from outside (15-20 foot range) he needs to produce underneath the basket. In his defense though, he is playing on a team with guards who can not get the ball inside to him. The White Oak coach's comments after the game about defending Cedric sums it all up best- "We thought their guard play was a little suspect. Obviously their frontcourt is not. We put a lot of pressure on the ball up front, and made it difficult to advance the ball up the floor." I truly believe if the young man was on a team which could drive and dish the ball in his direction, each game he played would end up on a winning note.

The best part about Cedric Simmons right now is he is just a junior in high school. With a lot of work, he is going to get a lot better. He has the physical tools and seems to have the right attitude. I just hope he will become more aggressive on the defensive end of the court and exert the necessary energy to take over the game.

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