Rayshawn Simmons Has Tapped Into A Special Zone With Team Ehingen

In the last 10-15 years Team Ehingen have been known as being a basketball breeding ground for top young German basketball talent as their list of fine graduates that have been able to develop further and play at a high level in Germany and elsewhere have been as long the touchdown list of receivers that Tom Brady has found in his career as guys like Lucca Staiger, Christian Stand hardinger, Nico Simon, Maurice Stuckey, Akeem Vargas, and Ken Ogbe have been just a few that have made the next step on the basketball ladder. But the club hasn´t been known to having much of an effect in the second Bundesliga. They arrived in the second Bundesliga in 2004 from the Regionalliga and after the league separated the league into Pro A and B, the club has been struggling in the Pro A for years. Except for one season 2013-2014 where they finished in third pace in the regular season, but couldn´t make the next step in the playoffs losing a tough 3-2 quarterfinal series to NBC. Since then they have been floundering in the Pro A and even played a season in the Pro B as in the Pro A, they finished in 16th, 14th and 15th in the last three seasons. But this season has been different as the club has played great basketball and been near the top of the Pro A standings from the get go. Back in the 2013-2014 season a big reason for the success was point guard Virgil Matthews who is still playing today and for years belonged to the top Pro A point guards who unfortunately never got a chance to display his strong basketball abilities in the easyCredit BBL. This season Team Ehingen is led by another point guard by the name of Rayshawn Simmons. He is just another example of one of those guys that never had it easy working his way up the basketball ladder, but this season one could say has been his real break through season as in his first two professional seasons he played well in lower leagues, but this season is proving that he can play at an even higher level. His basketball route has never been easy for him, but his grind, heart and special dedication to the game he loves is paying off for him this season, but his chip is still on his shoulder and not a light one. “I’ve had to deal with coaches/media doubting what I was capable of since 2012. Coming up in Saint Louis I was one of the top players in high school playing on the AAU team Saint Louis Eagles in the EYBL (Top league for amateurs in high school). After my senior year of high school I had a bunch of small D1s & great D2 Programs that wanted to bring me in but I felt like I was a great Mid-Major player or high major role player at the time. So I went to a community college to prove I could play the point guard position solely instead of a combo guard.  I was like 3rd in the nation in assists that year with 8.3 per game. I had all sorts of schools in the gym at the high & mid major level recruiting me. Me having to go prove myself as a point guard at a community college after competing against these high major guards was the turning point for me in college. And after my season in Australia I learned a lot from my experience in Hungary which has allowed me to tap into a special zone right now”, warned Rayshawn Simmons.

                Rayshawn Simmons is a 25 year old 192cm guard from St Louis, Missouri that is playing his third professional season. He began his basketball career in St Louis where he already battled his good buddy Washington Wizard Bradley Beal in high school, but instead of going to a lower NCAA school, he decided to go to Moberly Area CC (NJCAA)  before making the jump to an NCAA program. He then did find the right NCAA fit and played at Central Michigan (NCAA) from 2013-2016 playing a total of 95 NCAA games. He was able to improve his scoring, rebounding and assists each season and as a senior played 33 games averaging12.1ppg, 4.3rpg, 5.0apg, FGP: 48.4%, 3PT: 28.3%, FT: 64.1%. Nothing was handed to him on a golden platter in school as working on his craft and getting daily motivation from teammate Chris Fowler did the trick for his game being able to grow. “I was working extremely hard there at Central Michigan. Chris Fowler, a fellow teammate was driving me every day to get better and be at the gym with him at 6am daily. We would compete against each other and push each other. We both were point guards who started together with another point guard so we knew we had to work extremely hard being smaller than most teams to be able to compete in the league & ultimately win a championship like we did. The mental aspect to my game profited most. I learned so much from Chris Fowler just in my approach to practices and games alone”, stated Rayshawn Simmons. The American got a little comical when it came time to revealing who really won those countless battles on the court. “I’m sure if you asked him he’d say him but the truth is me”, smiled Rayshawn Simmons. He had many memorable personal games like beating Penn or Toledo, but it was those intense rivalries against the other Michigan schools that he will never forget. “I would probably choose the game we beat Western Michigan and I took their best player out of the game, filled the stat sheet up nearing a triple double & making two free throws at the end to seal the game”, added Rayshawn Simmons. But nothing was more special than winning the MAC west division in 2015. “Winning that title and cutting down the net was one of my all-time favorite experiences. We had just finished our game to clinch the MAC West title and stayed in the gym instead of going to the locker room. The deciding game on if we win the whole conference was on the Jumbotron in our gym with all our fans still there watching with us”, added Rayshawn Simmons.  No matter what professional player you ask, 99% will have good memories and kind words for their college coaches. These are the men that groom and prepare tomorrows professional players and Keno Davis was spot on in getting Simmons to the professional level. “Coach Keno taught me how to be a pro and figure things out as a player on the court with his hands off approach. He gave me & Fowler more freedom than you could ever imagine a coach giving a player. He helped me fine tune some micro skills and he was big on numbers. Every practice and shooting workout was stated. This allowed me to take a precise look at areas I needed to improve on and notice the areas I was improving on or strong in”, warned Rayshawn Simmons. 

                After his stellar career at Central Michigan there was no doubt that he would turn professional, only getting that first gig wasn´t that easy as there was a lot of the red tape off the court that somewhat delayed his rookie season. “I had some G League teams interested in drafting me back in 2017. My agent at the time didn’t agree with me playing in the G League & didn’t allow me to go to a showcase in New York I had got invited to after summer league that year. I parted ways with him because he said he’d have a job for me in Europe by the time the showcase was over in August of that year. I’m all about being about your word & I also didn’t think it was best for me in my career to not keep all possibilities open. So parting ways with an agency that late I knew it would be hard for my agency I’m with now (Two Points) to find me a job. The draft came along I was passed on and I was blessed to get an opportunity that January. I never thought about throwing in the towel until being sent home from Hungary. That hurt me as a player and a person because I gave it my all and was trying to do everything I was asked. I learned most from that situation reaching rock bottom. I thought I’d get something before the New Year that year but didn’t and I took that pretty hard. Told my agent I wanted to go to Australia & now the rest is history”, added Rayshawn Simmons. In his rookie season with Orli Prostejov (Czech Republic-NBL) he averaged 11.9ppg, 4.5rpg, Assists-4(5.3apg), 1.1spg, FGP: 41.7%, 3PT: 26.1%, FT: 71.2%. After living his whole life in the states, those first few weeks weren´t easy for the American as he remembered his wake up call to being in Europe and realizing just how far he was from home. “My wake up call that I was far far away from home was when I would be walking to the grocery store and trying to figure where something was and nobody being able to speak English to me. I had to use WiFi and google translate things that I wanted. I never used google translate a day in my life before then”, said Rayshawn Simmons.

                After a solid rookie season in the Czech Republic, he went back home and before getting that next gig in Europe, he suddenly breathed some NBA air as he had the unique opportunity to play NBA Summer League with the Washington Wizards. For anyone it would be the ultimate dream to play an NBA game, but just being able to lace up in the NBA Summer League was an unforgettable experience for the American. “ My experience with the Washington Wizards that year is one I’m forever grateful for. They brought me in on a workout as a fill in guy honestly and I had such a great workout that they brought me back for summer league training camp. At the end of summer league training camp it was time to make cuts. I didn’t know what to think when Scott Brooks called me into his office and 3-4 other guys had just been sent home before he called me in there. He sat me down & told me how I earned my spot on the summer league roster. He told me I changed the entire summer league camp with my leadership and hard work. I’ll never forget that organization giving me an opportunity to prove myself. I will forever be thankful for the experience. I got to play behind Deshaun Cooper & Nate Walters then the following year behind Kevin Pangos & Maalik Wayns. I learned so much from those guys as they are all playing top level ball in Europe or even had NBA stints. Each one of those guys took me under their wings”, stated Rayshawn Simmons. Just having this NBA experience is something he will never forget, but he also remembers seeing just how much of a business the NBA is. “The day coach Brooks called me into his office to tell me I made the team. I learned quickly how much of a business it was. I knew at the time I was just a G League level guy and not going to make a NBA roster. I’m optimistic but also honest with myself. I had worked out with some back up NBA guards that summer (Tyler Ennis & Langston Galloway) so I knew first hand how good those back ups were and I for sure wasn’t a starter. So he called me in his office to say I changed the camp and I made the team but he’s not sure how many minutes he’s going to be able to get me with the other two guys there”, stressed Rayshawn Simmons.

                The professional career of Simmons continued to have highs and lows after seeing the lows of finding a team late in his rookie season to gaining a high of rubbing noses with NBA players at the 2017 NBA Summer League, he experienced the next low as his second professional season was short and brief with Zalakeramia-ZTE KK (Hungary-A Division) as he played only 2 games averaging 7.0ppg, 4.5rpg, 9.0apg, 1.5spg. Despite the short stay, he still saw the experience as one that had a purpose and still kept him going on his basketball path. “In Hungary I was there for the entire preseason in which we went 8-2 beating teams in our league. I won preseason MVP in a tourney and was playing well. I was leading the league in assists there at 11apg but we had lost our first 2 games. My scoring numbers were low but there was a disconnect between coach and I because he was saying he wanted me to shoot the ball more but at the same time that I needed to be more unselfish. I wasn’t as aggressive as I should’ve been to score the ball and they wanted a guy to score more from that position then I was. They ended up bringing in a guy who the whole time I was there I was hearing they wanted to bring in the entire time but he was hurt earlier that season and preseason. It ultimately just wasn’t a match but I understood how it worked in that country as there’s a high turnover rate on rosters there. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity they gave me and for them sending me home honestly. It opened my eyes & drove me to the point I am now at in my career. I’d love to play against them one day but let’s hope I never do and just keep striding forward in my career. I played in Australia in March. This was where I was able to develop as a leader and work on specific things in my game. If it wasn’t for them sending me home in Hungary I probably wouldn’t have ever went to Australia to play which helped me more than anything in my career. I went to Australia because after leaving in November from Hungary and not signing in January anywhere I didn’t want to basically go a year without playing games”, added Rayshawn Simmons. But his sophomore campaign didn´t end in Hungary as he got a late season job down under with the Logan Thunder (Australia-QBL). The QBL isn´t the first division, but he gained the much needed self confidence in his game there which he has brought to Germany this season. In Australia he played 18 games averaging 12.6ppg, 4.1rpg, Assists-1(8.4apg), FGP: 51.2%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 76.2%. He looks back at his Down Under time as a period where everything fit in place on and off the court. “The experience was amazing and I loved it. The people were extremely welcoming and made me comfortable not just feeling like a machine or basketball player but a person. That allowed me to be more comfortable and do my job on the court a lot easier. When guys are happy off the court they tend to play better on the court. My fondest moment down under was our home quarterfinal game. Fans really came out and created one of the best atmospheres I’ve played in”, stressed Rayshawn Simmons. 

                After testing the basketball market´s in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Australia, his basketball agency Two Points did a great job landing him in Germany in the second division called Pro A with Team Ehingen. Last season it was American Davonte Lacy who made a name for himself as did German Kevin Yebo and this season that ticket belongs to Rayshawn Simmons. If things had worked out a little better and quicker last season, he would have been feeding the ball to Davonte Lacey in the winter of Germany instead of enjoying the amazing weather down under, but in the end everything turned out for the best. “Ehingen and me were a perfect match for each other. I needed a well respected league to go prove myself in and they needed a leader for their young guys. Coach Dom had contacted me back in January of last year about coming out to help the team but it didn’t work out. So when he contacted me again this summer it was almost a no brainer. Good league to showcase my talent and prove I can play at the next level. I can’t thank Ehingen enough for the opportunity they presented me with here and the freedom they give me to just go out and be myself every day in practices and games”, stated Rayshawn Simmons. It also didn´t take the American long for getting accustomed to German life. So often one hears the horror stories of guys playing in under developed basketball countries with terrible living conditions or not getting paid, but in Germany the basketball American is king. “I really appreciate how Americanized it is here in Germany compared to Eastern Europe. I love the style of play here, not too structured but not too much one on one. It’s a perfect mix and I think that’s important to have”, stated Rayshawn Simmons. The club started off slow, but since then have played well enough to be in the playoff range all season long. Many things are clicking for the team as they look to make the playoffs. “There’s no real secret. Except hard work and staying committed to one goal. Everybody on this team has a job so everybody needs to do their job. I think we had a great preseason and worked extremely hard. The first game of the season for us and the majority of our players was on the road vs a veteran team in front of a great fan base. We were tied with 6-7mins to go and I sprained my ankle, went out and tried to play through it the last 2mins. The 2nd game of the year I didn’t practice that whole week and played when I could barely walk. That threw off our rhythm for the game. So we started extremely slow but had a chance to win it late and tie it. Then the 3rd game was our first game of being back in a rhythm. We just didn’t execute our game plan on the road to the level we needed to in order to get a road win. It also didn’t help Kevin Yebo (one of the leagues best players) was in foul trouble all 3 of those games. We have a young team and every player, every coach, every practice, every shoot around we have is important for us to be successful”, warned Rayshawn Simmons. The team scores over 80 points and allows more than 80 points per game. It is obvious that they will have to improve on the defensive end to possibly make a run in the playoffs. “We’re a young team so there’s going to be defensive breakdowns from time to time but with experience throughout the season we will continue to fill those holes on defense. We just have to stay focused on the defensive game plan coach gives us and limit the times in games where it’s 3-4mins or even a quarter where we don’t execute the game plan. I think from game to game we’ve improved defensively for the most part so far. As long as we are improving game to game and playing hard then we can live with the results”, added Rayshawn Simmons.

                               Not only Simmons has been a key contributor to the success of Team Ehingen, but also his teammates. The club has four guys averaging scoring in double figures. Top team scorer and rebounder Kevin Yebo has been one of Germany´s biggest shooting star´s who still is extremely raw and off the radar. Only two years ago he was balling in the German Regionalliga(fourth division) in Limburg and now is on the verge of further greatness. Last season the German picked up Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro A Newcomer of the Year award and Simmons is totally elated with his game and success and also his game feeds off his buckets. “Kevin Yebo is one of the best players in the league. He has no real ceiling and I’m excited to see him continue to improve this year and in his career. He’s a special player with athleticism you just can’t coach or teach. He’s extremely coachable with an eagerness to learn and improve daily. I really appreciate his natural feel for the game. He knows when to cut, pop, screen and fill the lane with me on the break in transition. We work and play off of each other extremely well. He’s a special talent who works hard and is also a testament to Coach Dom´s track record of improving players”, warned Rayshawn Simmons. When your leading the Pro A in assists, it helps when you can find a long athletic guy like Yebo who lives on the rim, but also when you have that incredible sniper in Seger Bonifant. He is another guy totally underrrated, but one of the best shooters Germany has ever seen. The American can flat out shoot the ball as he demonstrated at W Liberty(NCAA2) shooting over 50% from downtown for three seasons and last season shot 48% from outside and currently is at 50%. “He’s another guy I feel like who was overlooked. Coach Dom did a tremendous job by putting together me, Kev, and Seger. We were all perfect matches who complimented each other’s game. Seger is the best shooter in the league in my opinion and the best in game shooter I’ve ever played with. I think he’s shooting it 50+% from 3pt range so far. Every shot he shoots I think it’s going to go in no matter where it’s from. He makes the game so easy for me. I literally just have to find him when he’s open or just drive it to his side of the floor and make defenders choose lay up or basically lay up (3pt shot) from him. If teams don’t deny him or put focus on him he’s liable to make 6+ 3pt shots on you. I think there was a game this year he scored 39pts. He can flat out beat you if you don’t focus on him”, warned Rayshawn Simmons. The American doesn´t have his favorites, but has been a great floor general for the whole crew and if he had to pay his respects to all of his teammates helping him get so many dimes, the dinner bill would probably be enormous. “I probably should get all the guys dinner honestly. Tanner Leissner doesn’t get the recognition he probably deserves but he defends guys bigger then him extremely tough every night & finishes around the rim just as good as anybody in the league. Tim Harsbergen is a deadly shooter and has a great feel for the game filling lanes in transition and cutting backdoor. I could go on and on down the whole team. Every player has a job and every player is extremely important. Coach also puts me in a position to succeed and play to my strengths. It’s a collective effort”, stated Rayshawn Simmons.

                The offensive game of Raysahwn Simmons is a mix of scoring and playmaking as it should be for a point guard. Growing up, the American was a fan of Steve Nash, Magic Johnson, Chauncey Billups, Rajon Rondo, and Jason Williams. “I try to incorporate a little something from every point guard I watch honestly. I’m a student of the game”, stressed Rayshawn Simmons. If one had to chose between a scoring or pass first point guard, he would take the latter. “Yeah, that would probably be fair. I honestly don’t think about passing or scoring just trying to make the right play and taking what the defense is giving me. My job as the point guard is to get the right people the ball in the right spots. I think I can lead with the best of leaders in the world and have the ability to make every single guy around me better. Also I can guard 1-3 and can take on defensive assignments taking an individual out of a game if asked to. I take it personal making sure the other teams point guards aren’t getting their averages. Point guards are judged on wins and losses so if I can force the opposing point guard under his averages then that gives my team a great chance to win”, said Rayshawn Simmons. The American has really been able to do a superb job of being able to be that lethal scoring threat and being that reliable playmaker this season as he has scored in double figures in 20 games and registered 10 assists or more in 16 games. There is a reason why his assist averages have risen as a professional in comparison to his NCAA days. “Here in Germany, Coach Dom put together a team that was perfect for my game and he run plays to my strength. He also allows me freedom to push the ball in transition and be a playmaker at times instead of just set play. He’s put bigs around me who are fast that can run the floor in transition, finish around the rim, and pop to make the 3pt shot. Then our wings are great spot up shooters who also fill the lanes in transition and great at slashing or backdoor cuts. Extremely unselfish guys that are all hungry to prove themselves and succeed. Australia was a similar team build to this team and Hungary I was surrounded by shooters and a great post up center in Ivica Radic”, warned Rayshawn Simmons. His offense has really been noticed in Germany, but there is another part of his game that he wish would finally appear on the basketball radar. “I think what I’m allowed to do defensively sometimes goes unnoticed. I can defend extremely well on & off the ball & guard multiple positions. I can also rebound the ball pretty well”, stressed Rayshawn Simmons. Currently he is averaging 11,7ppg, 3,6rpg and 9,2apg.

                Simmons has made a name for himself this season in the German Pro A and one can say this season has been his real break through as after this season he should continue to get good offers from teams in good leagues in Europe. If he can lead his team into the Pro A playoffs and even win a round, it would ultimately improve his future job offers tremendously. He may even remain in Ehingen who knows. Maybe his teammate Segr Bonifant could persuade him to remain during a yummy dinner of Zwiebelrostbraten and Spaetzle at their local restaurant in Ehingen. He has seen a lot in his career having some solid seasons in the NCAA at Central Michigan and has experienced growing pains in his first two professional seasons, but now has broken through in Germany. Sometimes he must look back on his high school days and wonders how his basketball path could of evolved with a little bit more luck and timing, but he will never be jealous of his good friend 2012 #3 NBA Draft pick Bradley Beal who has made a name with the Washington Wizards. There was a time during high school when Beal was with Chaminade College Prep and battled Simmons and the NBA player nailed 40 points and he dropped 33 points. It is only obvious that Beal remains Simmons toughest player that he ever played against at any level.  Many have said that that was one of the best high school games ever in St Louis, Missouri. Scoring wise not much separated them then, but now worlds do between the NBA and the Pro A. “Bradley Beal is like my brother. We’re best friends but I don’t think blood could have made us any closer. His family is my family and vice versa. We both have the same trainer (Drew Hanlen with Puresweat) and workout together and lift together with his older brother (Brandon Beal). We push each other every day in our workouts as athletes but also to be the best human beings we can be, which is the most important thing. We tell each other exactly how it is and when the other is wrong about something. It doesn’t get any more positive then that as a brother and a friend”, warned Rayshawn Simmons. Both friends Beal and Simmons were born in 1993 and one thing is sure, Beal has already reached the highest level with the NBA, but Simmons is only at the beginning and it will be interesting to see where his continued climb up the basketball ladder will take him. The American hasn´t questioned the unfairness of certain experiences in his career as he has kept a good head on his shoulders. “I know there’s been a plan and everything in my career has happened for a reason”, stated Rayshawn Simmons. With his huge talent, good confidence level and level head, Rayshawn Simmons will continue to climb the basketball ladder in the next years.

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