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Justin Simon is #arizonwildcats last scholarship player in the game, with 7:39 remaining.
— Bruce Pascoe (@BrucePascoe) November 9, 2015
Justin Simon didn’t play until late but I still think by the end of the season he’ll be a factor somehow … he does too much not to
— Matt Moreno (@MattGOAZCATS) November 9, 2015
The boxscore from Sunday’s 90-54 win over Chico State reads that freshman guard Justin Simon played the least amount of minutes — 8 — than any other Arizona player.
Despite that, Simon made the most of his opportunity, finishing with six points on 2-of-2 shooting from the field and the free-throw line with a blocked shot and assist with no turnovers. Over a 40-minute span, the length of a game, that’s the equivalent of 30 points making all 10 of his field goals and free throws with five blocked shots and five assists without a turnover.
To the extreme, but you get the point: Simon can and will be an instrumental player on the wing for Sean Miller off the bench, especially with fellow freshman Ray Smith out for the season with a knee injury.
Simon, a 6’5″ talent who committed to Arizona 18 months ago, may give up some height on the wing to opponents who may be 6’7″ or 6’8″. But his 6’11” wingspan makes up for the discrepancy.
Since I first saw him last summer in the AAU circuit, one thing is clear about him: He is a finisher when he goes to the basket. He is not afraid. Now training with strength and conditioning coach Chris Rounds, renowned for how he has molded the Wildcats into beasts on the court, Simon will be even more relentless against bigger bodies to go with his athleticism.
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— Kelly Presnell (@KellyPresnell) November 8, 2015
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Simon also has the advantage of being taller than most point guards if he plays that position, his natural spot.
“I am deceptively quick,” Simon told me during his AAU days. “That’s what a lot of guys think, that I’m tall and slow, but I’m really pretty quick on my feet. I find guys and find my open shot as well.”
Miller likes versatile guards who can defend multiple positions (see Nick Johnson) and Simon fits that role. His defense must improve for him to land more minutes. His three-point shooting needs work but he shows a good stroke.
Simon, recruited primarily to Arizona by former player and assistant Damon Stoudamire, was told by Stoudamire (now back at Memphis on Josh Pastner’s staff) on many occasions to keep his focus. Miller and his coaching staff can be assured that Simon has the right attitude to come off the bench and learn as he goes.
“Hopefully I’m coming in as a freshman open minded, picking brains and getting smarter,” Simon told me. “I’m gonna be surrounded with great players there. It’s going to make my game a whole lot easier. The coaching staff, they take their game real serious. I’ll get developed and it’s on me if I will get better or not.”