University Prep grad making his point at Polk State
February 17, 2017 12:00 AM
Tom Hagerty photo
Troy Simons, a University Prep graduate, is averaging 25.3 points per game at Polk State College.
By Joe Bendel / Tri-State Sports & News Service
Troy Simons is in the midst of his final audition for Division I basketball coaches. His every shot, pass, and thunderous dunk can be analyzed at any time, via live-action or later on video.
This Polk State College sophomore, by way of Brashear High/University Prep/Imani Christian Academy/Renaissance Christian Academy, is embracing these moments with great fervor.
A 6-1 combo guard who is playing the point, Simons scores (25.3 points per game), passes (2.1 assists), rebounds (5.4), steals (2.0) and regularly opens the eyes of Division I programs.
Pitt has shown interest in the Hill District resident. Ditto for Dayton, New Mexico State, Portland State, Memphis, Utah (which visited the Winter Haven, Fla., school last week) and Middle Tennessee State.
Simons originally committed to MTSU last spring, but felt it was best to widen the net.
Good idea, according to his coach and Rankin native Matt Furjanic, who sees Simons as an evolving talent who can flourish in the right system. Furjanic would know. He coached at Division I Robert Morris (1979-84) and Marist (1984-86) and has sent 27 Polk players to Division I programs and nearly 60 to four-year schools.
“I’ve never had a guy put up the numbers he’s put up in two years — and I had Rick Smits at Marist and Chipper Harris at Robert Morris,” said Furjanic, whose freshman-laden team is 9-19. “He’s our go-to guy and every school knows it. He’s being defended 94 feet each game. They just can’t stop him.”
During a sizzling three-game stretch this month, Simons scored 32, 43 and 32 points. He was named the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 8 Player of the week on Feb. 6. This came after he averaged 37.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.0 assists in wins against Florida Southwestern and St. Petersburg.
Simons entered the week ranked second in the NJCAA in scoring, one point behind Jerry Hurt of Eastern Oklahoma State. He has two regular-season games remaining.
Although his stats are undeniable, there is one caveat for Simons and all junior college players: He must convince coaches at four-year schools that he is committed to academics.
Simons said he will graduate after completing “one or two” courses in the summer. If he meets the requirements, a lifelong dream just might come true.
“After going to five different high schools, I lost all hope that I would go to a four-year school,” said Simons, the 2016 Suncoast Conference Co-Player of the Year.
Simons attended Brashear, University Prep, Imani Christian and Renaissance Christian Academy before finishing back at University Prep.
He said he left Imani because he was dissatisfied there. He left Brashear due to a family move and Renaissance because it closed. After graduation, he waited two years until he enrolled at Polk State. He found his way there after Furjanic saw video of him playing in the Connie Hawkins League in East Liberty.
“I’m the first in the family to go to college,” said Simons, who lives with his grandmother, Ardeana. “It would be unbelievable to earn that four-year scholarship.”
On the court, Simons pretty much checks all the boxes for Division I coaches. Playing on a Polk team that lost its point guard three days before the opener, he has emerged as a leader.
Simons is shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 39.3 from 3-point range. What makes him a difficult matchup is a 39-inch vertical leap that enables him to shoot over defenders or sail above them when he goes to the basket.
Against St. Petersburg, he demonstrated his myriad of skills in the final 10 seconds That’s when he dribbled the length of the floor, shook off a defender with a hesitation move, then nailed the winning 3 from the left wing.
“A Michael Jordan move,” said Furjanic, in his 17th and final season at Polk with an eye toward working as an assistant in the future. “And his shot comes naturally. It’s a gift.”
The winning shot against St. Petersburg gave Simons 1,000 points in his career, despite missing eight games this season with a broken left hand. He took the cast off himself. Nothing, he said, was going to stop him from making an impression on those Division I coaches.
“I want to be the No. 1 scorer in the nation,” said Simons, who, along with Charles Humphries of Aliquippa, represent the Pittsburgh region at Polk. “And if I do, everybody will know about me — and everything else will take care of itself.”
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