Jordan High School
by Robert Preston Jr.
photography by Jerry Christenson
Jordan High Senior Looks To Finish Career With Strong Postseason Run
A year is a long time to wait. But for Brandon Simmons, a senior power forward for the Jordan High Red Jackets, that year has been spent dreaming, working and planning. Last season, the Red Jackets advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the state playoffs. That’s a pretty good season for many players and teams, but Simmons isn’t just any other player, and the Red Jackets aren’t just any team. The 6’5”, 175-pound power forward knows he can play better, and he is a member of a talented team that has an opportunity to have a special year.
Simmons has lived in the Columbus area his entire life. He did not start playing basketball until fifth grade. Like most children, he began by playing with his friends in his neighborhood. Basketball was fun, and it came pretty easy to him. Simmons started thinking about playing the game in a more formal and organized format. “Basketball was just always a lot of fun for me,” he recalls.
After playing in middle school, Simmons found himself on Jordan High’s ninth-grade team. By earning a spot on the freshman team, he had achieved the first of his multi-stage basketball goals –a place to play for his ninth-grade season.
Simmons was not content with just being on the team. He had bigger dreams, and he longed to play on a larger and more competitive stage. Simmons kept growing and improving. A year later, he forced his way on Jordan High’s varsity team. The Red Jackets did not have a bad season that year, but they did not make the state playoffs. That motivated Simmons and his teammates to work that much harder over the following offseason. Since he does not play any other sports, he had plenty of time to devote himself to getting better. Simmons also plays for the Georgia Spurs AAU team, and the experience he gained on the court playing during the AAU season paid big dividends when the 2010-2011 campaign rolled around.
With Simmons’s size and athleticism, he can do a lot of things on the court well. He has a good shot, is quick to the basket, can block shots and is an unselfish player. He is also a winner who wants to get the most out of his talents and those of his teammates. He will do anything it takes to win; if that means stepping aside and letting his teammates do the scoring, he will gladly do so. Of all the things he does well, that may be the most important attributes he possesses – his focus on being a team player and his desire to win. “I’ll do whatever the team needs. If it’s scoring, grabbing rebounds, playing defense – whatever it takes. I want to win,” he says.
So far in 2011-2012, the Red Jackets have been doing just that. Jordan was 6-1 and ranked second in the state in 2A. In the last game before In the Game spoke with Simmons, he scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots against Central Talbotton. Coming into the season, Simmons knew the Red Jackets would be good. A good group of players from the Sweet 16 team would be returning, and the pieces were in place for the Red Jackets to be one of the better teams in their classification. So far, it looks like Simmons’s evaluation of his team was spot on. “I think we can go a long way this year,” he comments.
Always a talented player, Simmons’s breakout game came last season in a Christmas tournament against a strong Phenix City Central team. Everything fell into place for him. He threw down 24 points, a career high for him through the first seven games of this year. Simmons did not miss a shot that game – he was 12-for-12 shooting on the night. Unfortunately, Jordan High lost to Phenix City Central by one point in overtime. “I didn’t do anything special that night. I just ran, and everything clicked,” he recalls. “Our opponents were bigger and stronger than I was, and I was still able to score against them.”
After that night against Phenix City Central, Simmons realized he had the talent to play at the next level. He has the natural ability to play in college, but there are a few things he needs to work on. Most notably, Simmons needs to put some weight on his 6’5” frame. At 175 pounds, he needs more size to take the abuse that defenses dole out at the next level.
As Simmons matures as a player and a young man, size and strength will come. And with his frame, he has plenty of room to get bigger without slowing down. Simmons has received interest from colleges, though he does not know exactly which institutions are looking at him. His coach, Gerald Turner, does not want his players to get distracted during the season - all Simmons knows is that some schools are interested. Beyond that, he is playing every night for the Jordan High Red Jackets and doing his best to help his team challenge the best in 2A for a championship.
One thing that is helping Simmons get looks from colleges and universities is his performance in the classroom. Simmons carries a 3.7 grade point average and is currently ranked 17th out of 165 in his graduating class. “School has always been a priority for me. I won some academic awards in middle school, and I’ve always known I had to make good grades,” he says.
It was in middle school when he finally realized he would have to work harder in the classroom than on the basketball court. Always a driven young man who has remained cognizant of his goals, both short- and long-term, Simmons understood back in middle school that he needed to do the best he could in the classroom. “I want a lot in life, and I knew I had to have good grades. The lessons I learned on the basketball court carried over into the classroom. I know I can accomplish whatever I want to,” he says.
Those lessons – hard work; never quitting, no matter how tough things get; fighting through adversity; and setting goals – have positioned Simmons to be very successful not just in basketball but in life.
Though he would like to play basketball in college, Simmons is not content to sit around and wait until he graduates from high school before he enrolls in college. During his senior year, Simmons began attending Columbus Tech as a dual-enrolled student. He loves working with his hands and put that to good use on the Columbus Tech campus. He is a certified manufacturing specialist and has yet another set of experiences from which to draw as he pursues his primary degree, that of a mechanical engineer. “No matter what happens, I will have that to fall back on. A lot of things can derail a basketball career – family issues, injuries, things you can’t control. But at least I will have that,” he says.
In the realm of modern high school athletics, too many talented players seek an opportunity to play at the next level with little regard for what they will do once their playing careers end. The chances of making an NBA roster are slim to none. There are an estimated 10,000 college basketball players in the United States but only 360 active NBA players. At some point, an athlete’s playing career will end. For most, it will be sooner rather than later. As much as Brandon Simmons loves basketball, he has a keen understanding that one day, he will not be able to lace up his shoes, pull on his warm-ups and walk out on that floor. When that day comes – whether it is after the final game of the 2011-2012 season, four years from now when he plays his last game in college, or after an NBA team tells him he is just not good enough anymore – he will be equipped to step into his next career, one in which he uses his mind instead of his athletic ability. Basketball will have afforded him that opportunity, and that is what interscholastic sports is all about.