So it was surprising to see the Pride of Ephrata early against Long Beach State. He came in at the 12-minute mark of the first half and immediately corralled a steal and hit Faisal Aden on a nifty fast-break outlet. He then harassed his man into a turnover (with a little help from Brock Motum).
Next he pulled down an offensive rebound. Then a defensive rebound. He set a screen that effectively took out two guys, leading to a Motum dunk off a Reggie Moore assist.
All in just under three minutes.
Not bad for a guy who was seeing playing time for the first time in three games. But Simon came out after he committed a foul and never got back in.
All of which prompts an age-old question: What's a guy gotta do?
SIMON HAS SOME shortcomings, for sure. He's not the fastest cat on the planet and his defense won't be confused for Marcus Simmons' or Jorge Gutierrez'. On offense, he might be a little too one dimensional as a scorer.
At the end of the day, though, he obviously hasn't done enough in practice or games for Ken Bone to increase his minutes at the expense of Motum or others.
But I'll tell you what, if Simon can continue to produce like he did Thursday, and if fellow freshman Will DiIorio does the same -- he had 3 rebounds, 4 points and 1 assist in 4 minutes of PT vs. Long Beach State -- then the outlook for the Cougars in their quest for New York is very bright indeed.
Because Bone has basically shortened his rotation to seven players. That means a lot of minutes for a handful of guys against very good competition. As USC learned last night against Virginia Commonwealth, a short rotation can lead to tired second-half legs -- especially if your opponent fires up some full-court pressure.
Getting seven minutes of very productive time out of Simon and the walk-on DiIorio may not look especially notable in the box score but it's a big bonus for the Cougs -- one that USC probably would have loved to have against VCU.
Washington State plays Oklahoma State in the second round of the NIT on Monday (ESPN2, 8:30 p.m. PT). For most, all eyes will be on Klay Thompson. For me, I'm looking for the 6-8 kid from farm country to provide a breather, and maybe some spark from downtown. If he does, I'm penning in the W right now.