Simmons Eager to Arrive

Time moves slow in the mountains of North Carolina. And it can move even slower if you're waiting on the start of your college basketball career.

Jackson Simmons, a 6-foot-7 power forward from Sylva, N.C., has been killing time the last few weeks as he's counted down the days until his move to Chapel Hill. Without much classwork or any exams, Simmons has tried to fill his time as productively as possible -- but it's not always easy.

"It's basically been a time where teachers just make sure we don't do anything stupid," Simmons said. "I've been doing a great job at that. I haven't gotten in any trouble."

In the mornings Simmons works out with his strength coach and then moves on to skill work with his basketball coach at Sylva. Then after school, he spends time with family and friends followed by some late night shooting.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It isn't that Simmons is tired of Sylva -- in fact he said it'll be tough leaving his hometown -- but he can see what's in front of him and he's getting antsy.

"I'm just on the edge of my seat because I've been waiting so long to get down there and be a part of something special," Simmons said.

Simmons' wait ends Sunday when he loads up his truck and drives to Chapel Hill, but he won't stay long. Simmons returns to Sylva on Wednesday just in time for his high school graduation on Thursday. He'll have a small party at his house that night and then drive back to Carolina on Friday for a drama and post-civil war history class.

After that, he's finally in Chapel Hill to stay.

"I'm going straight into summer school," Simmons said. "Most of my friends aren't taking that immediate jump. But I've been looking forward to this since August ... So I'm excited about that."

The pickup games in Chapel Hill will be some of the first for Simmons in some time. He hasn't made the five-hour trip to the Smith Center recently and hasn't played much pickup in Sylva, either, opting to focus on skill development instead.

During workouts, Simmons has made a concerted effort to develop a quicker release on his shot and refine his ball handling. He said he's also gotten some inspiration from the NBA playoffs.

"I've been working on some Dirk Nowitzki-type shots," Simmons said. "Just sort of trying those out for a little bit. I don't have them mastered like him though."

While his workouts have been influenced by Nowitzki this summer, his jersey number choice was influenced by his mother. Simmons will wear the No. 21 next year for UNC, the same number his mother wore when she played in college.

"I haven't really told her the reasoning behind it," Simmons said. "She just thought I picked it because I liked it."

Once he gets to Chapel Hill the dog days of Sylva will be over for Simmons. On top of class, pickup games, weight lifting and learning the bus schedule, he'll also be working the Carolina basketball camp.

That's OK with Simmons though. He said he just has one goal this summer.

"I just don't want to be sitting around my house all summer doing nothing," he said.

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