Simmons to Walk-On at UNC

Special to IC
Posted Aug 17, 2010

Since his days at Kansas, Roy Williams has always incorporated in-state walk-ons into his program. On Tuesday, the coach may have scored his best one yet when he convinced Class of 2011 power forward Jackson Simmons to walk on for the Heels and bypass a litany of mid-major offers.

The Tar Heels accepted a verbal commitment from Simmons, a 6-foot-7 rising senior out of Sylva (N.C.) Smoky Mountain.

“It came out of left field,” Simmons said. “It’s truly an honor. I don’t really know what to say.”

Roy Williams has been known to pick in-state kids with talent and give them a chance to earn their way and be a part of the state program. He did it often at Kansas but Simmons may be the most talented player to which he’s ever offered this opportunity.

“I’m going to get to go to Carolina and play basketball at Carolina," Simmons said. "It’s a great deal. Coach Williams talked to me after the first (July evaluation) period. He said that he’s got some scholarship offers out and he gave me the proposition of being on the varsity as an invited walk-on and the scholarship stuff will play its way out.”

Simmons took his team to the final four in the state last year and averaged 19.9 points and 12.5 rebounds. He played alongside Tyler Lewis and Adejhi Baru this summer with Team Loaded.

“It just felt right," he said. "When I went down there I just felt the team had great continuity and I felt like I was willing to take the hard-working end and work my way up like Wes Miller, C.B. McGrath and Jerod Haase.”

Simmons’ mother coached Lady Tar Heel Cetera DeGraffenreid in high school and now she’ll get to travel to Chapel Hill to watch her son. “It’s funny how things work out,” he remarked.

Jackson had scholarship offers from Davidson, Charlotte and Old Dominion. He’s a gritty, hard-playing guy with a skilled face up package. Last summer he was evaluated by ACC schools and a host of mid-majors nationally including Butler.

In creating this opportunity for Simmons, the Tar Heels lured in an extremely talented player who is taking a chance at walking on and earning his way. Anyone who knows Jackson Simmons shouldn’t be surprised that he accepted the challenge.

“(Coach Williams) said I was the kid with the most skill that he's ever offered this to," Simmons said. "I want it and that’s what I really want. I want to prove him right.”

Jackson Simmons Profile

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