It was a difficult if appropriate way for Simmons' first season as a Buckeye to draw to a close. The 2008 junior college Division II player of the year joined the Buckeyes as head coach Thad Matta attempted to shore up his point guard situation despite the fact that Simmons' experience was primary as a shooting guard.
After some initial success, Simmons' struggles became more pronounced down the stretch until he asked to have himself removed from the starting lineup with four games remaining in the regular season.
Simmons then gave way to fellow JUCO transfer P.J. Hill, who made the most of his opportunity and started the final eight games of the season. During those games, Hill averaged 25.8 minutes compared to 15.9 for Simmons and the statistics show a widening gap between the two.
In the final game of the season, Hill played a career-high 40 minutes and added a career-high eight rebounds along with nine points. In his ten minutes of action, Simmons was 1 for 3 from the floor – all three-point attempts – and had four turnovers against no assists. Hill also came out on the negative side of the assist-to-turnover ratio with four helpers against five giveaways.
The problem was that while he was putting up big numbers at Flint (Mich.) Mott Community College, Simmons was doing so playing off the ball. Once he signed with the Buckeyes, he was targeted as a point guard from day one.
As Mott head coach Steve Schmidt said, that was not exactly playing to Simmons' strengths.
"I think he handled it extremely well," Schmidt told BuckeyeSports.com. "I thought he did a good job playing a position he wasn't probably best suited for at the point because of their necessity. I thought he did a pretty good job and hung tough. I was real proud of him."
Although he was entrenched as the starter until much later in the season, Simmons struggled to consistently connect from behind the arc. Schmidt cited OSU's offensive play for Simmons' shooting struggles.
"I know how well the kid can shoot," Schmidt said. "Given the opportunity to come off as many screens as (Jon) Diebler did or William Buford, Jeremie got his shots mostly when the shot clock was running down and it was when you needed to take a shot rather than something in rhythm or taken off set plays."
Throughout the season, however, Simmons established himself as the consummate teammate if nothing else. His soft-spoken answers tended to center on how he could best help his teammates rather than lamenting the fact that he was struggling.
Asked how his role had changed heading into the NCAA Tournament, Simmons said, "I've just got to come in and bring extra defense and help my teammates on offense. I think that's my role now."
Heading into the 2009-10 season, Hill would appear to have the inside track at retaining the starting point guard role with Simmons serving as the understudy. It's not exactly a thrilling prospect for a player who was once the offensive focal point of any team he suited up for, but his former head coach said the situation has not killed Simmons of any of his drive.
"I think he's still got a lot to prove," Schmidt said. "He's determined. He's not negative in any way. He's determined and I think he'll be a different player. I hope he'll be a different player. He's pretty focused, I can tell you that much."
Throughout the 2008-09 season, Schmidt said OSU fans had not yet seen Simmons at his best. That viewpoint remains the same.
"I sure hope so, even if he's off the ball a little bit more," he said. "You just can't tell what's going to happen tomorrow, much come the season. He's working hard and he's got a lot of pride. I don't think he was happy with how he played. He still got shots, but he didn't knock down a ton of them."
Simmons ended the year sixth on the team in scoring with an average of 6.8 points per game. He was second on the team with 125 three-point attempts, but he connected on just 45 of them. That percentage of .360 ranked him fifth on the team.
"You have to remember a lot of them were at the end of the shot clock," he said. "I know Jeremie very well and I know he wasn't satisfied with his play. He'll use that as motivation to have a hell of a senior year."
Such a year would go a long way toward solving what ailed the OSU offense last season.