K.K Simmons is a 23 year old 190cm combo guard from Marietta, Georgia that will start his professional career with German Pro B team Licher Basket Baeren. He played at three schools with NC-Wilmington (NCAA), Kent St. (NCAA) and Pikeville (NAIA). Last season he finished his college basketball career with Pikeville (NAIA) playing 31 games and averaging 16.4ppg, 1.9rpg, 2.6apg, FGP: 46.1%, 3PT: 39.2%, FT: 78.5%. Simmons is an amazing shooter and shot 48% from outside in his junior season at Pikeville, but can also mix it up getting to the hole. In his first season with Pikeville, he played 25 games averaging 20.8ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.0apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 48.9%, FT: 78.4%. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Karriem thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been?
Currently I’m in Atlanta Georgia. Where it all started for me. I grew up here and played high school and AAU ball here. My summer has been going extremely well so far. I been traveling a lot of places seeing family along with getting some good workouts in along the way. I been to Los Angeles, California. Las Vegas, Nevada. Orlando, Florida and many more. Great way for me to visit family and friends along with handling business and getting my work in.
Congrats on signing with German Pro B team Licher Basket Baeren. Is there any better feeling that being able to play the game you love for a living?
No there is no better feeling at all!!!! I can’t even describe it. I get to continue to do something that I love and have an unbelievable passion for as a career!!! I been dreaming of being able to play pro ball since the age of 4. It’s all I ever wanted and really all I ever talked about. This is such a blessing and I will take full advantage of this amazing opportunity.
After a stellar two year career at Pikeville, with what kind of expectations were you going into your first ever transfer period. Did you realize quickly that wanting to become a professional basketball player is a business where so many aspects have to be viewed in order to be able to sign with a team?
Yes sir I definitely understand that this will be kind of tough transition, but very doable. I’ve always played basketball at the most competitive and highest level that there is. Since high school I have always understood that this life of sports is a business and it’s nothing personal. And that KK Simmons is my brand and I have to carry myself as such. Take care of myself and everything else will take care of itself.
You picked the Licher Basket Baeren. What do you believe was the deciding factor for you to take the challenge with this team in the Pro B?
It was just a good situation for me. People involved in my camp are very familiar with the organization and the league it’s in. I know that they will treat me with a great deal of respect and present me with the opportunity to be great and help the organization in the most positive way that I can. And that’s goes for on and off the court. Just present me with opportunity and I will take care of the rest.
Did you get some advice from your ex teammate Randal Holt at Kent State who has torn up the German Pro B the last years?
I spoke to Randal a couple of times. I would check in to see how he was doing on and off the court as much as I could. I could tell he was enjoying himself along with playing some good basketball. Randal has always been a big brother to me. From the Kent State days until know. He preaches to just be KK, and I will be just fine. He’s a big time mentor and big brother to me. Words can’t describe how proud I am of him.
Did you have any talks with your first professional coach Rolf Scholz? What was your first impression of him?
I have had a couple talks with coach here and there. Coach is a really good guy, and from our talks I can tell that he’s real excited and anxious to get me down there and see what I can bring to the team and organization. He’s welcoming me in with open arms and I’m so thankful for it. I will make him proud and do whatever he ask of me for us to become successful.
Did you feel like you guys were on the same basketball page quickly and spoke the same basketball language?
Most defiantly, I want him to coach and teach me a lot more things that I can add to my game. I’m always open to learning more and applying it to the game. I know he wants me to be coachable and lead in whatever aspect he needs of me. Verbally or just leading by example. When I get there I’m sure we will have a lot more of those kinds of talks. And we shall go and grow from there.
Let´s talk about your game. You are a combo guard and in your last two seasons at Pikeville, you showed your explosive scoring qualities. Did you have to be more a scorer than a playmaker?
At Pikeville we had a really good team for both the 2 years i attended. I just played it game by game. Some games I needed to be that aggressive scorer and search for my looks from the tip ball until the final buzzard went off. And some games I would start off as being a play maker and really trying to get my teammates involved. I’ve never been the selfish type. I feel an assist is just as important as scoring the point yourself for me. So being unselfish and letting the game come to me would always be the perfect game plan for me. The basketball Gods would always find a way to bless me and make sure I left my mark on the game in every way.
You shot an amazing 48,9% as a junior and as a senior 39.2%. Do you feel with continued practice and development with your shot that you could be a consistent 40% shooter in the pro´s?
I love to shoot the basketball. It’s been my specialty ever since I was little. Developing the handle along with the height and strength just made everything 10 times better for me. That’s where playing college ball and possible becoming a pro athlete was really in reach for me, but like I said before shooting is what I do. Shooting 40% consistently from being the arc shouldn’t be a problem at all for me. I will aim to shoot 100%. Lol. I always feel like I should never miss a shot, because I can shoot it so well. Making shots is my specialty!!!
You are a guy that fill up the stat sheet, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t always get noticed right away on the court?
I think some of my great strengths that are hidden and go unnoticed at times are my great passing and defensive skills. People tend to fall in love with my jump shot so much, that sometimes they forget that I’m more than just a jump shooter. At the end of the day I understand why!!! Shooters shoot, so it doesn’t really bother me too much.
You got a lot of experience in the states playing at three schools. Often a player will start at a lower level and move up, but you went the opposite direction going from the NCAA to the NAIA. Does this make the fact that you are a professional basketball player so much more sweeter because you made it coming from the NAIA a level that isn´t always easy to reach the pro´s?
I was always taught that you can make it out of any level. It’s never over until it’s over. As long as you believe in yourself, work hard and stay focused. The Pros don’t care what level you come out of, and if they do they shouldn’t. There are a lot of great talent out there on the NAIA level. People under estimate it, but shouldn’t at all. My team, along with many others could compete at a high level on the division 1 stage. Most good players in the NAIA come from division 1 programs. Does not mean they weren’t good enough to play on that level. Everyone story is different. It’s what makes the game so unique.
You started your basketball career at NC-Wilmington (NCAA) playing 25 games averaging 7.2ppg, 1.8rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 35.2%, 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 72.4%. However towards the end of your freshman season you were suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. When you look back at this experience, do you ever think how your NCAA career may have gone had this not happened?
I feel like you live and you learn. As far as the UNCW incident, all I can really say is that it was all on me and my emotions. Like I said before, in this game everything is business and nothing is personal. Being a kid on his first real college experience and being away from home and not having my mother and father being there holding my hand every step of the way was very tough for me in the begining. I wore my heart of my sleeves too much. I was talking too much except for playing and letting my game speak for itself. I take full responsibility for what happened. It was a good learning experience and chapter to see on to my story.
You moved to Kent State and played a season there in 2013-20134playing 29 games: 4.4ppg, 1.2rpg. You had to sit out the season before and witness the senior year of Randal Holt. What could you learn from his game that has helped you over time?
Randal and I have very similar games in a lot of ways. He was my mentor and I looked up to him big time. Whenever I could work out and get in the gym with him I would. He’s very giving and unselfish. It’s bigger than basketball with him. We were like family. He was my host on my visit to Kent and is one of the biggest reasons why I committed to play there. Randal is a stand up guy. I appreciate all that he’s done for me.
How disappointed are you that you won´t be opponents this season? He will play in the Pro A after he helped the Dresden Titans move up last season. What was the most important ting that you learned from his game?
I heard! I’m so proud of him, he deserves all these great opportunities and blessing coming his way. Even though I will be pretty bummed out not to be able to shake hands with him at half court before the game and compete against him at a high level like we did for an entire year. It would have been fun like always! But I’m sure it will happen again sometime soon. The biggest thing I have learned from his game is confidence. Randal is confident in every move that he makes on the floor every shot that leaves his hands and every words that comes out of his mouth. He’s a go getter for sure, and he competes at the highest level every time he steps on that floor.
Did you feel added pressure after your superb junior season at Pikeville going into your senior year? How did you develop as a player in your senior year?
No I didn’t feel any kind of pressure at all, I knew what was expected of me from my teammates and my coaching staff. Coming into my senior year I knew that I would be a huge target for every team that we came across. I would have the other teams best defender guarding and denying me the ball every game. Doing any and everything to throw me off my game. That summer coming in, I worked on a lot of off the dribble moves into my jumper, along with different finishes at the rim. All teams where going to pressure me and chase me off the 3 point line, so I kept that in mind when I would get in the lab and work on my craft. I also got a lot better at my attitude towards life. On and off the floor. I can only control my attitude and my effort towards the game and towards life. I was just a much better person and really took a big time step into becoming a educated, successful, humble young man.
How did head coach Kelly Wells groom and prepare you best for a professional career at Pikeville?
Pikeville was good for me. I’m a proud alumni!!! Coach Wells is a great man. Best coach I ever played for! He’s made me a better man. Coach Kelly groomed me in a lot of different ways!!! I can’t say how thankful I am to be able to become a part of this mans life and him mine. The patience that he has for me. The teaching the constant advice. The constant truthfulness and real conversations we have. He will always tell you the truth and real to every situation weather you like it or agree with it or not, but it all comes out of love and care and from a good place in his heart. Constant confidence he builds in me as a player and a leader. He knows that I have a special talent and he always told me from day 1. “I don’t care how much you don’t like it or try to fight it. I will not let you short yourself and stop yourself from being great.” He didn’t lie. Much love and respect for Coach. Family for life!!!
Who won a one on one in practice you or Christian Leach?
As a competitor I’m going to say that we would have had some great battles, but I would have won all of them!!!! Haha, but honestly we would have either split games or he might have had me up a game or 2. Christian is an unbelievable talent. His ball handling skill along with his body size and stretch is crazy. Body control along with strong finishes at the rim is kind of hard to stop in a game of one on one with no help defense at all. My jump shot may have been too much for him though. So I’m going 50/50.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 NBA heads would you choose?
Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O´Neal. The four most dominate players of all time!!!!!
Now that Lebron finally won a NBA title with the Cavs where does this title put him in the debate as the all-time best player in the world?
Lebron is my favorite player!!! Since day 1, my first game seeing of him was at high school he played in at UCLA. He dominated and I knew he was ready to play in the NBA. I always felt like rings don’t really define what kind of player you are and where you fit on the latter or greatness. I believe that everyone’s story is different. His resume and stats in the league speak for themselves minus the championships. So add those on and what else can you say about him? He’s one of the greatest.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Last movie I saw was finding Dory. Great movie. I love Disney, Pixar, and dream work films. Animated films are my favorite. I’m a big kid a heart!!!
Thanks K.K for the chat.