Simon caught the ball on the right wing, squared his man up, ripped through with the ball low and hard, took two dribbles to the baseline, rose up and drained a fifteen footer with a hand in his face.
I immediately turned to my friends and told them, "That's all I need to see!"
That play told me a couple things -- first, he's comfortable getting to his shot (which will be his ticket) off the bounce. Second, although he is a big man, it looks like he already understands the concept of staying low on the rip through, and attacking off the bounce.
ANOTHER PLAY THAT impressed me was when he caught the ball at the top of the key, took a strong dribble right, countered with a behind the back dribble to his left, and finished with a floater – and missed. Why would I like a play that results in a miss?
Because Simon got to the paint in two dribbles while changing direction. And because Simon showed he is comfortable finishing with touch around the rim. I don't see him dunking on a lot of guys at the next level, so he must be comfortable with touch shots/floaters in the paint at the next level.
WITHOUT QUESTION, SIMON will make his living as a catch-and-shoot guy. His shot is his best weapon -- he has a fairly quick trigger and he's confident with it. Granted, he didn't shoot a great percentage on the night I saw him but I liked where he was missing his shots -- short or long.
Good shooters miss short or long, not left or right.
And he could have missed all his shots and still have had me believing he can really shoot it because this wasn't the first time I've seen him up close. At camps in years past, I've seen him drain 7-8 threes in a row, in games, on multiple occasions.
There are also off-the-court things I like about Simon. He comes from a great family, he loves the game, he's respectful and he's dying to be a Coug -- ever since he committed to us when he was 14 years old!
YOU MIGHT READ all this and think; ‘Well, of course he has all that upside! Aren't all the guys we recruit like that?' In short, no.
In terms of Simon as a prospect, here's what I like -- he has a clear-cut position (4) and he has go-to skill, shooting the ball. What don't I like? He will need to improve on strength, quickness (especially laterally), and finishing with contact. Now, read that improvement list again. Sound familiar?
They're the same things 95 percent of incoming freshman have to work on. The fact that he's playing 2A basketball doesn't scare me off. The ability to shoot the ball transcends classifications – provided you can get your shot off. Simon is 6-9, that should help in that regard. I typically didn't have a problem, at 6-7, finding space to release my shot. And Simon's range is at least at deep as mine.
One thing I didn't get the chance to see was Simon screen. If you're not quick, the ability to screen effectively will be your saving grace. If he doesn't/can't learn to screen effectively, then yes, the long, athletic 4's could bother his shot. But if he does/can screen effectively, look out.
When I look at prospects, my first question is this -- do they have one thing they do exceptionally well? If not, are they a freak athletically? If you can't answer "yes" to either of those questions, then it's a gamble. Simon is not ultra athletic, but he does shoot it exceptionally well.
MY RED FLAG ALERT for high school prospects is this -- are they "okay" at a bunch of things? That may cut it in high school, and be very deceiving at the same time.
If there are no skills that literally jump out at you, then they must have elite-level athleticism. Specifically, that means being very smooth, i.e. Kyle Weaver. Smooth, athletic players have a high ceiling to develop their skills. In addition to Weaver, think Russell Westbrook. Speaking of Westbrook, did you know several high level colleges didn't think this guy would have a chance at a major conference? Look at him now.
THAT BRINGS ME to my final point. To a certain degree, you never quite know what you're getting in recruiting. Look at what happened at WSU. Weaver didn't have any other D-I offers, and now he's in the NBA. And Chris Henry in that class was supposed to be our best recruit. I love Henry to death, but things didn't work out for him for a multitude of reasons (including injuries) whereas Weaver became an all-time great.
I don't bring this up to cover my own butt in saying I believe Simon will be a good player for us, but rather to demonstrate that recruiting can be a bizarre ordeal. Having said that, here's my best guess at the kind of player he will turn out to be when it's all said and done in a few years…
Simon will be 6-9, 235-240 pounder and a hybrid of me, Robbie Cowgill and former Oregon Duck Maarty Leunen. And he'll shoot 40 percent-plus from three point range. You heard it here first.