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Everything's falling for Simmons
Seattle Times staff columnist
Blaine Newnham / Times associate editor
Washington plays a raucous brand of basketball, darting on defense, dashing on offense, all over the floor, reflecting the impishness of Nate Robinson.
But in the midst of this creative chaos is Tre Simmons, a player who lays in wait, waiting to deliver the decisive blow.
Simmons is what Washington has lacked for almost forever: a shooter.
Every time he pulls up and releases a shot, you expect it to go in.
Last night, in a startling easy 108-68 win over Oregon State, he was mesmerizing.
In seven second-half trips down the floor he zeroed in on four three-point shots, added a couple of free throws when he was fouled and dished off for two more buckets, a lob to Robinson and a unselfish handoff to Mike Jensen.
That was 14 of his 26 points, tying his career high at Washington.
Deon Luton was a streaky shooter for the Huskies in the 1990s.
But Simmons is better than Luton. In fact, he might be the best Huskies shooter since Clarence Ramsey in the early '70s, maybe the best shooter the Huskies have ever had this side of Bob Houbregs' hook-shot artistry of the '50s.
He makes just about half his shots, and is better than that (51.5 percent) from beyond the three-point arc.
From the dependable distance of the free-throw line, he is shooting 89 percent.
Last night he started by missing four of his first five shots. And his first free throw.
"I said to myself, 'You're a better shooter than that.' I kind of talked myself into it," Simmons said later.
In the second half, he made 5 of 6 shots and scored 17 points in 10 minutes.
With 11 seconds to go in the first half, the Huskies ran a play to him, something they'll do when they really need it. Will Conroy handed off the ball near the top of the key, and Simmons connected on a three over two Beavers.
"It was more dramatic than it needed to be," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar with a smile.
Simmons wasn't always a great shooter.
In fact, at Garfield High School, where he played with Conroy, Brandon Roy and Isaiah Stanback, Simmons was the point guard.
"I was an OK shooter," he said this week, "but I was the point guard, more of a one-on-one, cross-you-over dude. It wasn't until I got to Green River that I became a shooter. My coach (Travis DeCuire) told me if I could get my shot down, I could be one of the top players in the country."
And so the extra work began. Hours and hours of shooting. Twice at Green River Community College in Auburn, he scored more than 50 points in a game.
Bob Bender, then the UW coach, didn't recruit Simmons in high school, going hard after his teammate Roy instead, while also taking backup point guard Conroy as a walk-on.
When Romar replaced Bender, Conroy started talking up his former high-school teammate and wouldn't quit until Romar agreed to watch Simmons in an open-gym situation.
"No one could guard him," said Romar. "He wasn't a great defender, but he was quick enough to keep people in front of him. And he had this uncanny knack of squeezing down the baseline for a shot."
Simmons left Garfield for community-college basketball in Odessa, Texas, mostly because his mom wanted him to.
"I wasn't doing very well around here," he said. But there was no doubt he wanted to come back. After going to Green River, he considered Texas, Nevada-Las Vegas and Oklahoma State before picking the Huskies.
"I trusted Coach Romar," he said. "He's a good guy on and off the court. He's not some fake dude."
Against Oregon on Thursday, Simmons hit just 6 of 16 shots. But he still had 12 rebounds and spent some of the night guarding Oregon's Aaron Brooks. Last night was the 12th game in a row he has scored in double figures.
His overall game has improved immensely, partly because he has worked on it, and partly because he has needed it to make up for the loss of Roy, who missed time after knee surgery.
Roy is called Washington's best all-around player, but the 6-foot-5 Simmons dominates the numbers for Washington.
In the Pac-10, he is first in free-throw percentage, fourth in three-point percentage, sixth in scoring and steals and ninth in rebounding. He leads the Huskies in rebounding, and with his 26 points last night he took over the UW scoring lead from Robinson.
"I don't remember a better, more consistent shooter at Washington," said Romar.
"Tre had good size for a shooter, he can put it on the floor and he can pass the ball," he continued. "He has developed into a very good all-around player."
Not just some "cross-you-over" dude.
Blaine Newnham: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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