Arizona Basketball

Simon says bear down; playing that way will make others follow to Arizona Wildcats’ program



Arizona Wildcats Class of 2015 stands out with Dream Vision in Las Vegas

Arizona Wildcats Class of 2015 stands out with Dream Vision in Las Vegas (Robert Scot/ to

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Justin Simon

Justin Simon

LAS VEGAS — At this time last year, Justin Simon was scratching the surface in the recruiting scene, when he heard Arizona-bound five-star guard Stanley Johnson tell him, “Bear Down”, as they passed each other on the court in one of these AAU games.

Johnson is presently on the Arizona campus studying and working out in anticipation of the fall semester next month and the start of basketball practice in late September.

Simon is now the five-star recruit, ranked as the No. 1 Class of 2015 point guard by He is in Las Vegas playing in the Adidas Super 64 tournament at Cashman Center.


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It’s his turn to give younger players the message to join Arizona.

“I mess with the younger guys a little bit … that’s what Stanley did to me last year,” Simon said with a laugh. “The whole game he was telling me, ‘Hey Justin, bear down … bear down.’

“I kind of mess with the younger guys, like (Class of 2016 small forward) Tyus Battle and (Class of 2016 point guard) Derryck Thornton), I kind of mess with those guys I tell them to bear down and come join the family.”

If only this was a game of “Simon says” for Arizona and the prospects follow him to Tucson. Sean Miller, Joe Pasternack, Damon Stoudamire and Book Richardson are banking on Simon’s performance doing more than his talking to get recruits to commit to Arizona. Success begets success.

Sean Miller sits courtside during Dream Vision's game with Justin Simon (Robert Scot/ to

Sean Miller sits courtside talking to Pitt coach Jamie Dixon during Dream Vision’s game with Justin Simon (Robert Scot/ to

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Simon, who committed to Arizona in May, plays with a sense of confidence befitting of a point guard ready to handle a leadership role at the next level. He finished with 15 points and five assists in Dream Vision’s 79-75 victory over the Milwaukee Rebels early Thursday. His 6’11” wingspan altered a few shots and clogged passing lanes. He finished with two blocked shots.

He was unstoppable when he penetrated the lane to the basket. His sweet feet, length and size (6’5″ and 180 pounds) is hard to handle. If he did not finish with a dunk or layup with his aggressive moves, he drew fouls. Coaches like finishers. Simon is a finisher.

“I am deceptively quick,” said Simon, who is taller than most of the point guards here. “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.”


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Justin Simon shows good form on his jumper when he is not attacking the hoop (Robert Scot/ to

Justin Simon shows good form on his jumper when he is not attacking the hoop (Robert Scot/ to

Miller likes versatile guards who can defend multiple positions (see Nick Johnson) and Simon fits that role. His three-point shooting needs work (he made 1-of-3 from that range against the Rebels) but he shows a good stroke.

With Simon’s recruiting phase over because of his commitment, Arizona’s coaches, namely Stoudamire, have taken on more of a coaching stance with the guard from Temecula Valley, Calif. Stoudamire’s point of emphasis is for Simon to maintain his aggressive play from start to finish. So often a young player can lose focus playing games daily against varying degrees of competition.

At this time next year, Simon will be where Johnson is now, in Tucson preparing for his freshman season. Stanley Johnson is stepping into a starting role with Nick Johnson off to the NBA. Simon may have a similar opportunity with T.J. McConnell exhausting his eligibility after this season.

Others also have a shot at the point guard position. Parker Jackson-Cartwright will be in his second year in the program, as will Kadeem Allen, last year’s junior college player of the year. Allen can play either guard position similar to Simon.

True to his maturity, Simon is not taking anything for granted because he is coveted by Miller and Stoudamire and the rest of the staff.

“Hopefully I’m coming in as a freshman open minded, picking brains and getting smarter,” he said. “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.”

Simon will take Johnson’s message to bear down, literally. With the kind of confidence he exudes with his actions on the court, others will follow.

NOTES: Simon’s new teammate with Dream Vision (he was with the AAU team Gamepoint until Monday) is 6’11” center Chase Jeter of Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Jeter, who has Arizona as one of his six finalists, is expected to commit to Duke soon at the Adidas Nation tournament in Los Angeles (runs Aug. 1-5). Jeter told me Thursday that Arizona continues to pursue him with Richardson being the primary recruiter. … Dream Vision Class of 2016 power forward Solomon Young received a phone call from Miller on June 15, the first day coaches can call juniors. Young, who may be difficult to pry from Cal-Berkeley being that he is from Sacramento, said he has not heard much from Arizona since although it’s very early in the recruiting process for him. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.


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