K.K Simmons is a 23 year old 190cm combo guard from Marietta, Georgia that completed his first professional season with German Pro B team Licher Basket Baeren averaging 20,8ppg, 2,8rpg and 3,4apg. 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 at the end of the season.
Congrats KK on helping save the Licher Basket Baeren this season. What kind of overall experience was it for you playing with pressure having to keep the team in the Pro B?
To be honest, the overall experience was a really good one. There were a lot of moments and possessions that felt like I was in a playoff situation. Playing to stay in the Pro-B league was a lot of pressure but nothing we couldn’t accomplish as a team.
You stated in our last interview in January “I’m extremely confident that I can help Lich stay in the league. The key thing for us is sharing the ball on offense and playing team defense and everything will work out for the best. Did these things come true in the playdowns for Lich?
Yes, a lot of these things came true for us as a team during this play-down stretch. We had a lot of really good practices coming into the play-downs, and as a team we performed pretty well on both ends of the court.
The Licher Basket Baeren took care of business early winning the first 4 playdown games to stay in the league. Does this accomplishment dim your feeling a bit by the way you ended the season losing your last two games?
Winning the first four games of the play-downs was how we responded to the end of our regular season. By us accomplishing this, the last two games weren’t as important as the first couple. We are happy that we took care of business early.
The Dragons Rhondorf had to win the game and played well for 40 minutes, possibly their best game of the season. You had played against them three times earlier having a 3-1 record, but now lost to them where they only had one import player. Do you tip their hat for their do or die effort on enemy territory in Lich?
Again, Rhondorf has a lot of talented players that play hard on both ends of the floor. They needed to beat us to stay in the league, and we could tell this from the start of the jump ball.
What was your season summary this season. Lich had another talented team that missed the playoffs, but came together in the playdowns to stay in the league. What positives can you take out of the season?
I could take a lot of positives out of this season. What I like the most is that we didn’t let us not making the playoffs affect us, and we still handled our business in the play-downs. We stuck together as a team and accomplished our goal
The Licher Basket Baeren once again played many young and older Germans. If you had to choose one German who you feel developed and improved the most from day one to the last game against Rhondorf who would you pick?
Kevin Strangmeyer aka “Baby Dirk”. I gave him that nickname the first time I ever saw him play. This kid is very talented, works hard, and competes to get better every day. For him to be only 15-16 years old, he’s a special talent. Watch out for this kid.
You played together with Lamar Mallory. How important was it having him as a teammate for the success of Lich and for you having such an impressive rookie season?
Having him as a teammate was very important for the team. Like I’ve said before, I would hate to play against him. Walking on to the court and knowing that I have him by my side is a big confidence booster because I know he’s always ready to battle. He played a big part in my success in my rookie season.
You had a sensational rookie season averaging 20,8ppg and had some big 30 plus point games. What was your personal season highlight?
There’s so many to choose from. It can go from Lamar catching alley-oops from me to me stepping up and hitting big shots for my team and everything in between. All in all, it was a great season.
You had the opportunity on playing together with ex German national player Johannes Lischka. He doesn´t play your position, but has a lot of experience. What tips did you gain from his play on and off the court?
Like you said, he doesn’t play the same position as me so it’s hard to say. On the court, I can admire his post game because, as a guard, if I could increase my post presence, it would add a whole lot more value to my game. Off the court, he just conducts himself as a pro. He has the experience, and you can tell that he’s played at the highest level.
In January you stated “Yes, I feel like I have had a great rookie season. Throughout my entire basketball career, I’ve lived up to team and personal expectations. I believe that this year has been no different” What was your secret to being able to have no need to get adjusted as you took off right from the start?
There is no secret. I’m just confident in all the hard work that I’ve put in to compete at the highest level. Every move that I make or shot that I take is like second nature. I work extremely hard on my craft every day.
You battled against many tough guards like Kerry Carter or Terrence Smith, but who was the toughest guy that you had to match up against?
I would have to say Kerry Carter. The two times we went head to head were both very exciting games to watch.
How do you feel that you were able to develop your game in your rookie season that will help you make the next step in your second professional season?
I felt like I took a bigger step in mastering an even better pick and roll game. Knowing how to play and make the correct reads with the pick and rolls can take you a long way in the game of basketball.
What is the next step for KK Simmons? Great guards in the Pro B are like apples on a tree in Florida, but your game speaks volumes. Do you see yourself being able to make an impact at the German Pro A level?
The next step for KK Simmons is a chapter that hasn’t been opened yet. What I can tell you is that I will be working extremely hard this summer and will remain in the gym every chance that I get. I can see myself being able to play and make an impact on any level in any country. If German Pro A is what God has planned for my calling next year, then that’s what I’m going to do. We shall see what happens.
What are your plans for the summer basketball wise. What will be the most vital things that you will be working on to help define your game even more?
This summer I will be gym-rat. I will be working on each and every aspect of my game. I see tons of room for improvement, and I want to become so much better.
Now that the NCAA tournament is history, what sports do you concentrate on in the summer to watch?
The NBA finals. I’m a huge fan of Lebron James and Kyrie Irving, and I have the Cavs going all the way.
Devin Booker recently hit the Boston Celtics with 70 points. Did it surprise you that he reached this feat before other big time NBA players?
Yes, I was very surprised. 70 points!!! He did damage that night. I had the privilege of playing against him in college, and I always knew he’d be a great scorer on the NBA level. But wow.
How special was the run of South Carolina at the 2017 NCAA tournament? Do you feel like this was the story of March Madness 2017?
The run that South Carolina made in the NCAA tournament was amazing. Much respect for them and their program. The players worked very hard and were well-coached. The story was about Roy Williams winning another championship at North Carolina. He’s one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history.
Is Lonzo Ball the real thing? Do you feel like he will be able to develop further despite the antics of his father on social media?
Lonzo Ball is a really good player, but I wouldn’t say he’s the real thing. If he continues to work hard, he should have no problem at the next level. No comment on his father.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
No, it’s not fair at all. This man averages a triple double. People always try to find something wrong with being great. I love Russell Westbrook’s attitude. He doesn’t really care about what people think about him, and he lets his game speak for himself.
What was the last movie that you saw?
More Than a Game. Lebron James.
Thanks KK for the chat.