Meet K.K. Simmons: Mr. 'Invincible'
Published: Thursday, December 15, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 16, 2011 17:12
You'll find him on the basketball court hustling on every play with determination in his eyes. But when the lights go off, you'll find him goofing off in his living room playing video games with friends and teammates. Karriem Simmons, known as K.K., is a normal freshman student-athlete who dreams about making it big in both life and basketball.
Simmons was born in Atlanta, Ga. where he fell in love with the game of basketball with the help of a small Fisher Price goal he received one Christmas. Simmons later tried out for a 6-year-old-and-under league when he was only 4. He made the team.
Because he was so much younger than the others, he sat on the bench most of the season until one game he was called in. It was then that he made his first free throw.
When he reached the age of 10, basketball started to get serious. "It wasn't just me and my friends playing on the court anymore," he says. "It was a whole different game."
Basketball was already in his blood. Simmons' dad was a big player in New York and many of his uncles played Division I basketball. "It pretty much came naturally to me as soon as I picked up a basketball," Simmons says proudly.
He dipped into football for a little while, but never felt the love for it like he did for basketball. "When I step onto the court, I feel invincible," he says. "Everything else in the world doesn't matter." Simmons says at the end of a bad day, basketball will always be there for him. He describes it as a "home away from home."
Family is a major part in his life when it comes to playing. "They are my biggest fans and my worst critics," Simmons says. His mother and sister try to make it to every game they can, and his father has made it to every game since Simmons was little.
"They will be the first to tell me that I did well, but at the same time they will be the first ones to tell me that I sucked out there and what I need to improve on," he says. "They keep it ‘one hundred' with me. If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be here today."
Simmons attended a private middle school where he played on the varsity basketball team in eighth grade. He continued into Wheeler High School where he, again, made varsity and excelled, winning the regional championship all four years and the state championship his sophomore year. During his senior year, he was nominated for the McDonald's All-American team.
When the time came for Simmons to decide on a college career, he had multiple options. He purposefully chose schools out of his home state of Georgia. "I felt like in-state would be more of a distraction," he says. "Being away from home would give me a chance to grow up."
Schools like East Carolina, Appalachian State and Marshall all recruited him, but in the end, Simmons chose UNCW. "The coaching staff was one of the reasons I chose to play here," Simmons says. "I really liked the environment as well. It felt like a family, like home." But the main reason he chose to be a Seahawk was the other recruits. "I felt like we could come here and really do something big to rebuild the program."
He has no regrets about choosing UNCW. Simmons says he couldn't see himself with any other team. "We are a family," he says. "That's the only way to describe it."
Simmons admits collegiate basketball is a whole different level above high school. "It's intense," he describes. "Players are faster, which makes the speed of the game even faster. Everyone is good." He is also new to the expectations coach Buzz Peterson sets at practice. "Practices are just like games. We compete for a spot every day," he adds.
Simmons has big plans for his upcoming years at UNCW. At the top of his list: winning a CAA championship. Building up to this, he would also like to maintain a winning record and have a personal best in three-point field goal percentage. "I think it's also important that I develop a strong brotherhood with my teammates and have fun while still being a good student," he says.
While pursuing his basketball dream, Simmons is also majoring in communication studies. He hopes to one day become an entrepreneur and own his own business, as well as help young players aspiring to follow the same path he did."A lot of people helped me growing up, and I don't think it would be right if I didn't give back," he says.
Basketball isn't about just winning titles and awards for Simmons, though. For him, it's a learning experience where he can take something away every time he leaves the court. "It taught me how to be humble," he says. "There is always someone out there better than me. Like my mom always said, ‘There are so many K.K. Simmons in the world. What can separate you from the rest?'"