K.K Simmons is a 23 year old 190cm combo guard from Marietta, Georgia that is playing his first professional season 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 after the massive 85-84 win against Nordlingen.
KK thanks for talking to German Hoops Did you make any 2017 New Years resolutions or are you more the type of guy that doesn´t waste his time with that?
My New Years resolution for 2017 is to become a better person all around. That means being a better son, better sibling, better boyfriend, better teammate, better friend, etc. Just want to try to continue growing day by day.
Congrats on the huge 85-84 win. How good did it feel to get back on the winning track after the loss in Frankfurt?
Getting a win always feels good, especially after the tough past couple of weeks we’ve had. Coming into the game, we realized that our backs were against the wall & that we had to execute on both ends of the floor in order to come out with a victory.
The Giants Nordlingen had the 49-39 lead at halftime. What was giving Lich the biggest problems on defense trying to contain their scoring?
Our defense actually was better than it has been the last couple of games. Our help side defense & defensive rotations were on point, but giving credit to the Giants, they hit a lot of tough shots. We knew coming into the second half that they wouldn’t shoot as good as they did in the first half. Well, at least we hoped that they didn’t.
What adjustments did Lich want to make in the second half and what was key for the 27 points scoring attack in the third quarter?
On the defensive end, we wanted to become more physical by playing hard without fouling. On the offensive end, we wanted to play fast & keep attacking. Our coach made a great choice by playing a smaller lineup, with 4 guards & 1 big. This worked really well for us.
What an amazing fourth quarter. Nordlingen was up by seven points and Lich stormed back to tie the game only to allow Nordlingen to get the lead back and lead 84-78 with 1.54 minutes to go. How was the team feeling at this point? How much did good conditioning factor into being able to come back one more time?
We felt like we were in a great position. We’ve been in close games the entire season, so we knew what we had to do to remain in striking distance. Conditioning played a great factor in being able to close the gap again. We had a really good week of practices leading up to the game.
The Licher Basket Baeren closed out the game with a 7-0 run and won with the buzzer beater of Lamar Mallory. Was this the most heart and character the team has shown all season long?
Yes, I guess you could say that. Like I said before, we’ve been in close games with pretty much every team all season. In the end, we always come up short by maybe a possession here & there. We’ve shown a lot of heart & character at several points this season, but Saturday’s game was by far the most we’ve shown, especially under the last 2 minutes of the game.
Take us through your buzzer beater. Was this a designed play or off a broken play?
Yes, it was a designed play. It became broken at some point but we still executed something that ended up winning the game for us.
How many buzzer beaters have you had in your career and how proud were you that your teammate accomplished this?
I’ve had countless amounts of buzzer beaters in my career. I’ve played at the highest levels of competition at all points in my life, from high school to AAU to college & now to professional basketball. I have played in many close games, some coming down to the last few possessions. I’ve made many buzzer beater shots but I’ve also been on the opposite end of a buzzer beater. I was extremely proud. It was a very intense moment, & to come out with a win on a clutch play like that was a great feeling.
Lich had been on a 4 game losing streak and in three of the four loses, the club lost tight games. Did the team have a crunch-time problem until the win in Nordlingen?
Yes. I would say so. As a leader, I’ve always said we’ve had a problem with closing out games when it comes to crunch time. Getting this win in a close-game situation like we did was a huge step for us.
How excited are you for the second half of the season as Lich is involved in a real playoff fight. Do you feel like the team hasn´t reached it´s fullest potential yet?
I’m really excited for this second half of the season. A lot of teams are adding new players to their rosters, & the league is becoming a lot tougher on this stretch as we begin to close the regular season out. No, I don’t feel that we’ve reached our fullest potential yet, which is a good thing. We need to continue getting better each day.
The team scores 85 points per game, but also allows 85 points per game. It will be benficial to carve down some of the points per game. In what areas does the team still need to improve and does it have the potential to keep teams between 70-80 points?
Offense isn’t our problem. We have to continue getting better on the defensive end. Yes, we have the potential to keep teams between 70-80 points, but it’s up to us to string along key stops in games to be able to make that happen.
How vital has the pick up of Blake Justice been. He says that he could be the glue guy. What do you appreciate most about his game?
Blake becoming a part of our family has been very key for us. He definitely can be the glue guy that brings us more together as we get into a tougher part of our season. I appreciate everything that he brings to the table: his ability to score, his ability to lead on & off the court, & just his overall presence is much needed for our basketball family.
Lamar Mallory is having a great second season. Where do you compare him to the other top players in the Pro B south like Kerry Carter or Aaron Nelson? Do you see him heightening his game even more in the second half?
To me, there is no comparing when it comes to Lamar. He plays his heart out every second of every game. He’s one of those guys you would hate to play against. I’m very thankful to have him by my side when we step on the court. I know I can count on him to be ready for war. Yes, I could see him heightening his game even more in this second half of the season. He always rises to the occasion & does what he has to do to put us in a position to win games.
Your having a great rookie season in the German Pro B. Consistency is your middle name. How strange is reading your stat line and seeing 4 points in a 20 point win against Frankfurt?
Honestly, I don’t even think about that game anymore. It happened so long ago & like you said we won by 20 points. It doesn’t matter if I score 4 points or 40 points, a win is a win. However many points I score is not what I define my game on. I bring so many other things to the table.
You are tearing up the league and are very consistent. How content have you been with your game and on what things do you need to improve on most?
I’ve been content with my game, but I also feel like I have a lot of room to improve. I feel like I can improve on my leadership skills & my off ball defense more. Becoming more of a floor general is also what I want to improve on.
How difficult is it in general to improve when one is tearing up the league. Besides winning on what aspects will you concentrate most in the second half of the season to continue to help improve your game?
Honestly, it’s not that difficult to improve at this point. At the end of the day it’s not all about me. I have a lot of things to work on but winning is the most important thing to me & my teammates. None of us on the team really care if KK Simmons did this or that; we all care if Lich wins & the way we win.
What was your impression of Fraport Skyliner Junior Isaac Bonga? He has been projected by some of being a 2018 NBA first round pick.
I think that Isaac is a good player that has a lot of potential to be something special. I talked to him after the game about it; I told him to keep working hard & good things will come his way. It will be nice to see him in the NBA one day. He has all the tools to make it happen.
Klay Thompson recently hit 60 points in 29 minutes touching the ball for only 90 seconds. Where does this performance rank with you?
That game was a legendary one for Klay. I was amazed by this. It was a really good performance, but I’ve watched countless NBA games that have had just as great things happen in them. I would’ve rank it in my top memorable moments but it’s not too far off.
One always talks about Lebron and Curry, but one has to mention Russell Westbrook. He is averaging triple double stats at the moment. Is he stat wise the best player in the world right now?
Hands down, stat-wise, he’s the best player in the world right now. Averaging triple-doubles is almost humanly impossible & almost unheard of. It hasn’t been done since the Big O. Russell Westbrook is a monster.
What was the last movie that you saw?
We’re the Millers. It’s one of the funniest movies of all time.
Thanks KK for the chat.