Simmons Receives Scholarship

Sylva (N.C.) Smoky Mountain forward Jackson Simmons was the third player to commit to North Carolina from the class of 2011. This week he became the fifth player in the class to receive a scholarship from the Tar Heels.

Shortly after coming home from the gym on Monday night, Simmons fielded a phone call from North Carolina coach Roy Williams. After catching up a little bit the conversation took a more serious tone when Williams offered Simmons the final scholarship offer for the 2011-2012 season.

"I was actually talking to my girlfriend (before) and my dad said Coach Williams called, so I had to cut that short with her but she understood." Simmons said. "(Williams) told me that mom and dad didn't have to pay for my schooling next year and that I would be on scholarship. I was very excited."

Simmons said his scholarship is only secured for next season and then will be re-evaulated.

"It's going to be a year-process thing," Simmons said. "At the end of the year we'll re-evaluate it like everyone else. Then we'll just go from there."

While Simmons found out about the offer on Monday night, the rest of the world didn't hear the big news until later in the week. Simmons decided to keep the news from everyone but his parents until Wednesday night because he wanted to make sure he understood the specifics of his offer.

"I knew I just needed to talk to Coach again and clear some things up," Simmons said. "I really just wanted to make sure I was saying the right thing when I told people."

Simmons knew getting a scholarship was a possibility when he opted for UNC over mid-major offers last August, but thanks to a little confusion, he'd thought his opportunity had passed for this coming year. After point guard Stilman White and center Desmond Hubert committed this month, Simmons didn't think there was a scholarship left for him.

"To be honest with you -- and I'm so embarassed about this -- I thought there were only 12 players on scholarship. I didn't realize there were 13," Simmons said. "So when Coach told me that, I figured it out."

Having prepared himself to be a walk-on, Simmons said the scholarship is just the icing on the cake to his college recruitment. He said it doesn't change his approach to next season at all.

"It's always an honor to have a scholarship and have your academics and everything of that nature paid for at a university like North Carolina," Simmons said. "But I always feel no matter what the situation you're always going to have to go in and gain the respect. I'm not really worried about that because all I know is that I can control what I can control and that's my hard work."

Simmons added that if anything he's excited about the scholarship for his parents most of all.

"My parents have always participated and been my biggest support," Simmons said. "Don't get me wrong, I was happy that I was on scholarship but I was happy for them that they could save their money and keep that for their own use."

With the scholarship offer out of the way, Simmons is just enjoying the rest of his senior year and preparing for the future. He's playing the role of Monsieur d'Arque in the play Beauty in the Beast at Sylva High and said he's looking forward to what could be next year.

"I just wanted to thank all the Tar Heel fans and the Tar Heel nation for all the continued support. They've just been great and I'm loving every minute of it," Simmons said. "The next four years are going to be very special and I'm going to do my best each and every day to get better and help the team win a national championship."

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