Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Grasshopper" Brandon Simmons' Elev8s Game In Delray Beach

The primary issue Brandon Simmons poses for Elev8 coach Brett Newman is one every coach in America would love to have.

For a day. For a week. For a season.

"I can put him (Simmons) anywhere on the floor, so it's hard to keep him in one place  ," said Newman of the versatile, 6-foot-8, 190-pound forward.

Nevada, Florida Atlantic, FAMU, Long Island University, Rice, and several others have expressed interest in the quick-footed Simmons.

"'Grasshopper' is his nickname. He's lightning on his feet. On this team, they play above that level on which their talent capacity shows. That's because they play the right way. Since Day 1, I've said, 'this is not about me or my system.' This is about you guys learning to play the right way."

Newman served in the U.S. Marines, so he knows a thing or two about discipline, brotherhood, and immense sacrifice.

 He's survived and endured the harsh realities and lingering pain of combat.

From Newman's journey, which saw him go from a prominent dual-sport high school athlete in New Mexico (he's lived in 30 different states) to an around-the-clock coach/trainer, there are plenty of life lessons to dispense.

An adept passer at 6-foot-8, Simmons has unfurled a barrage of step-back jumpers and created matchup difficulties, adding on to his Division-I toolbox since arriving at Elev8.

With his length and size, he can sky for rebounds and finish at the rim with relative ease.

With a knack for stepping out and popping the 3-pointer and acclimatizing to the point forward fashion has made "grasshopper" a linchpin in the team's fast-paced attack.

With his shot and shot creation off the dribble, he's suddenly drawing post defenders away from the rim.

Newman was once a bullish JUCO guard/forward, leaving a playground legacy on courts such as Memorial Park in rough-and-tumble Compton, Calif. as well the fabled asphalt of Venice Beach.

Newman likes to say he was 'Billy Hoyle," Woody Harrelson's hot-shooting, trash talk-spewing character in White Men Can't Jump, before the movie's 1992 release.

Offensively, Newman's approach is far from laissez-faire.

He charts various statistics such as steals, deflections, high-percentage shots, risky passes, and touches on the ball before the shot release.

 He ensures the ball is moving fluidly.

Newman despises the one-on-one game, quick with a tongue lashing for anyone too enamored in their own numbers.

The slightest speck of flashy over-dribbling-- though it was this style with which he once thrived on courts from Kansas to Mexico City--has the potency to draw his ire.

Simmons' squad has the potential to outduel foes with layered depth and balance.

"The biggest, most crucial aspect is this..." explains Newman, a longtime friend of University of Georgia coach Mark Fox.

"The percentage is the one number that outweighs statistics. We look at playing vs. production. You can play, but your product shows who you are."

Elev8 has steadily earned a selfless identity this season. They've had seven games where they've dealt out 21 or more assists as a team. Newman was elated after Elev8 kicked in 20 assists with just one turnover.

Forging a patchwork group into an overall team seemed like an arduous task.

 Many of them were accustomed to being primary scorers and ball handers on their respective high school teams, forced to defer or and surrender individual stats for team shine for the very first time.

The team quickly developed a rapport on and off the court. Buying in, ultimately, would entail making defensive aggression a lifestyle.

Newman said the gelling process was "not at all that difficult."

With the off the ball defensive ferocity and backcourt leadership of Matt Woods, Newman has cashed in on the high-efficiency categories. He preaches them early and often, the southern twang ringing in his players' ears well after the performance.

Woods, who averaged 19PPG has become more adept in all areas--including rebounding and field goal percentage. He's shooting just a thread below 50 percent from the floor, 45.5 percent from beyond the arc.

With skinny arms as long as stickball bats, Simmons' feathery touch and ambidextrous passing has helped him subscribe fully to the Mr. Everything role which Newman laid out for him.

  Simmons averaged 15 points and 10 boards at Teaneck High (N.J.), eventually bolting for the prep scene.

Staying longer in the weight room and working at more repetitions and focusing on shorter increments, Simmons is preparing for the augmented physicality of the ensuing level.

 He passed up JUCO after JUCO, many of them nationally ranked, to enhance his game under Newman and world renowned NBA skill development trainer Ganon Baker.

 Baker, who trains the likes of Lebron James, Chris Paul, and newly-acquired Dallas Maverick Amar'e Stoudemire, has developed an international reputation.

Alongside former Cornell shooting guard Cody Toppert, the two will host NBA pre-draft camp in Delray Beach this summer.