Greetings from Gill Coliseum about an hour before game time. Is Washington focused and ready to go? I can’t tell. Like Tony Wroten said, everybody gets ready in their own way. So to sit and decipher whether this team will come out and play well based on pregame warm-ups, well I might have just as good of luck flipping a coin.
One person who I expect to play well is Desmond Simmons. After a bit of a mini-slump, the redshirt freshman forward has figured out what caused it.
From my story …
The solid game for Simmons stopped a string of four games in a row in which he played 16 minutes or fewer. Before Thursday, the forward was starting games but wasn’t a factor.
Some thought he had hit the imaginary freshman wall. Romar wouldn’t go so far as saying that. He barely agreed to it being a slump.
“Players go through slumps,” Romar said. “And while he was going through his mini – if you want to call it a slump – Darnell (Gant) was playing pretty well.”
So if it’s not a slump, what was it? It’s freshman year.
“It’s been an up and down … roller coaster,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to go with the ups and downs and learn a lot. The main thing is just staying confident and don’t get discouraged when things don’t go my way. At the end of the day, I’m still just a freshman and I have a lot to learn.”
Maintaining confidence and valuing each possession are the two things that stand out that Simmons has learned about playing NCAA Division I basketball.
“Every possession counts, little things count, offensive rebounds, loose balls, they all count,” he said.
And in that four-game stretch, Simmons kind of lost focus on that because he got caught up in his offensive game, specifically his failures.
“My shot wasn’t falling,” Simmons said. “I think subconsciously it did kind of alter my play a little.”
Romar could see it.
“Sometimes you lose confidence in your offense, you try to take chances when something isn’t there, or try to make something happen when its not there,” he said.
And while Simmons is a capable shooter out to 3-point range, that’s not what Romar loves about him. It’s his energy, toughness. His tenacity. Simmons just needed to be reminded of it.
“I got my head straight and started focusing on doing what got me more minutes in the first place, which is being active on defense, rebounding my tail off and doing all the little things,” he said.
“We have had a void on a leadership standpoint all year long,’’ Robinson said. “When I say void, I am talking about the vocal leader. We have several guys who lead by example, but sometimes you need a guy at practice or in games to just call everyone together and be me when I am not able to do it.
“We have struggled with that all year long, but that is what happens when you have a young team. We have one senior who is a walk-on and doesn’t play that much. It is just a tough thing that we have to evolve into.’’