Freshman's swipe catches Stringer's eyes in practice
The leap from high school to college basketball is a tough one and often times freshmen stumble into their rookie years while still adjusting.
Take the leap from high school to Rutgers women's basketball with coach C. Vivian Stringer with a competitive Big East schedule, and adjusting can be all the more challenging.
Luckily for Stringer, whose team is as young as ever heading into the 2010-11 season, one rookie is doing her best to stand out.
"First of all, it's a joy to coach [Daisha Simmons]. She's done everything we've asked of her and more," Stringer said of the freshman guard. "She's a winner. She wants to be a winner. It's interesting because she has come in just like every other freshman quite honestly — kind of star-struck, humbled, not really asserting herself. So it was completely difficult for me to tell, ‘Was she having the same issues that everyone else was having in adjusting?'"
With less than two weeks remaining until a date at California, the Scarlet Knights are still working out the kinks of their offense. At the same time, the Knights are trying to round out the edges of their patented 55 full-court press, something Stringer hinted that the team will use more this season.
That's where Simmons comes into play.
The Jersey City, N.J., native averaged close to a triple-double in her senior season at Gill St. Bernard's (N.J.) with 21.5 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game, all the while displaying her versatility.
But coming to the Banks presented a far greater challenge for the freshman, who was ranked the 11th-best shooting guard by ESPN.
"It's been a fun experience so far," Simmons said. "[Stringer] wants the best from you every day, so you know you just have to work hard."
Simmons showed that ability during practice, grabbing her coach's attention as well as the rest of the team's.
While working on the 55 during practice, Simmons had the responsibility of guarding the ball-handler who just so happened to be former Rutgers point guard Matee Ajavon.
The former Knight plays in the WNBA for the Washington Mystics, after initially being drafted by the Houston Comets in 2008.
During her time with Rutgers, Ajavon served as a sparkplug for offense, scoring willfully by slashing to the basket and utilizing her ball-handling skills.
Ajavon averaged 12.2 points a game in her senior season, second only to guard Epiphanny Prince, who has gone on to establish herself among the elite in the WNBA.
When it came to breaking the press, Ajavon did it at will against the 2010 edition of the Knights, leaving Stringer's squad searching for answers.
But it only took one play for Simmons to get her coach's undivided attention.
Ajavon dribbled the ball up the floor, again with Simmons guarding her. This time, though, Simmons got the best of the former Rutgers standout and stripped the ball away to get a steal at midcourt.
Stringer initially stood in disbelief.
"Because of the angle that I was, I thought that Daisha, who was playing [Ajavon], had fouled her," Stringer said of the play. "I said, ‘No, that was a foul,' and so the girls on the sideline were saying, ‘No, strip.' I stopped and said, ‘No one strips Matee. She didn't strip you, did she, Mat?' Mat said, ‘No that was clean.' I then went on to ask her a question, ‘Who here has handled you?' Because she was been running all over everybody. She said, ‘Man this one right here is tough.' And it was Daisha."
With the caliber of a player that Ajavon was during her career on the Banks, Simmons' defensive stop of the pro guard does more than just get Stringer's attention.
The freshman may have done enough to cement herself a spot on the floor and onto one of the most vital components of the Knights' game this season –– the 55-press.
But before Simmons focuses on having an immediate impact, the freshman sticks to a modest plan for her rookie showing, one that could be even more impactful than anyone anticipated.
"I mean I'm working hard, and with hard work you can do a lot," Simmons said. "As long as I keep working hard then I will be ready. If I stay confident and work hard, I will be able to do a lot of good things, but I won't know until that time comes so we'll see what happens with working hard and stuff and staying confident."