Photo courtesy of Robert Cole Photography.
By David Cordova
Every year in college basketball, there’s always a redshirt waiting for a chance to play the following year. And in that time, there’s a lot of development going on as far as skills. Then when the time comes in which they are ready to perform, they give it everything they got.
For Justin Simon, this season is one in which he has performed when the lights went on. Last season, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules and now he is one of the most important pieces for the St. John’s Red Storm. His athleticism is top-notch and his ability to do everything on the court, whether it be getting ten rebounds in a game or ten assists is a great asset for the Red Storm.
“This is just a sport that I’ve been playing ever since I was young, my first steps was on the court, my mom played in college, my dad played in high school, so just being in the moment and having the game taken away from me last year motivates me to play hard,” says Simon on what motivates him to be successful in hoops.
His game is simple. “I describe myself as a long guard, a guard that looks to facilitate, just play hard out there.” says Simon.
Simon hails from Temecula, California, which is an hour north of San Diego. When asked about being from Temecula, he replied, “It started off as a small town, it’s expanded, I’m glad I’m from there, I get to represent there, every time I step on the floor and I hear ‘Temecula, California, Justin Simon,’ announced, it means a lot to me.”
When asked about the basketball scene in Cali, he replied, “It’s uptempo, it’s fast paced, run and gun, a lot of shooters, it’s California basketball. There’s nothing like it, a lot of talent.”
In high school, Simon started out at Temecula Valley High School in his hometown, where he averaged 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds & 4.2 assists as a junior.
Then for his senior year, he transferred to a national powerhouse in Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, where he averaged 12.5 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists on a Bobcats team that went 34-1 and won the NEPSAC Class AAA title and the National Prep Championship. Coming out of high school, Simon was rated as the No. 37 player in the Class of 2014, nationally, by ESPN.
When asked about going 3,000 miles away from home to play at Brewster, Simon replied, “Coach Smith, he’s done a lot of great things over there at Brewster, he has helped a lot of kids get into college and in the NBA, so I mean, high school itself, was an amazing experience, I’m glad I got to make that transition from a public high school to a boarding school, just to mature, get ready for college, it was an amazing experience overall.”
Then on May 6th, 2014, Simon, while still a junior, committed to Arizona, a powerhouse program in the Pac-12 Conference, for the 2015-16 season. As a freshman, he didn’t play much as he averaged 2.4 points and 1.3 rebounds in 24 games for the Wildcats.
That’s when he decided to make that cross-country move once again to the East Coast, this time in a place that many call the land of opportunity, New York City, to play at none other than St. John’s, a program that is a part of one of the most prestigious conferences in the nation, the Big East.
When asked what made him decide to transfer to St. John’s, he replied, “St. John’s, New York as a whole, you think about it, as far as off the court, every big market, everyone’s headquarters is out here, what I wanted to get into was television & film, you know, and Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, two Hall of Famers, they sell themselves. You can’t get better than two Hall of Famers on your staff, and the New York environment and the exposure, playing on the big stage and the bright lights.”
And playing in venues such as Madison Square Garden and St. John’s on-campus site, Carnesecca Arena? “Like I said, New York is an amazing city, just the love & support we get from our fans and our community and just playing in Madison Square Garden is an unbelievable feeling, it’s a big stage, and Carnesecca, just to have the fans, the community come out to support, it’s big,” says Simon.
This season, Simon has been outstanding for the Red Storm, averaging 11.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and five assists in 27 games. St. John’s started out well this season in non-conference play, going 10-2 and then struggling afterwards, losing their first 11 games of Big East play. The Red Storm got rejuvenated after beating both Duke and Villanova, two nationally-ranked teams in the Associated Press poll, and have continued to win as of late, and are now 14-13 on the season.
“We’ve proved to ourselves that we’re capable of winning those type of games, I think we’ve lost every type of way we can, whether a missed free throw, a turnover or defensive breakdown. We’ve been through that moment and we’ve proved that we can win those type of games against any team in the country.”
Now, as a sophomore, Simon has two more years to do a lot of things for the Red Storm. As the program continues to build under Mullin, there’s no doubt that St. John’s will be dangerous in the years to come.
For now, though, they’re on a four-game winning streak into their next game against Marquette in Milwaukee on Tuesday. But for now, the optimism amongst the team is very high. “I see us finishing up strong, on a positive note for the rest of the season, hopefully having a chance to make some noise in the Big East Tournament and to find our way into the NCAA Tournament, that’s been a dream of mine.”
And for himself? “Me, myself, the future for me, just to continue to get better each and every day, just get better as a person and as a player.”
Highlights of Justin Simon:
Courtesy of Ballislife.
Courtesy of City League Hoops TV.
Courtesy of Baller Visions.
Courtesy of Qwik11Hoops.
Courtesy of The Basketball Diary.
Courtesy of CBS Sports Network.
Courtesy of St. John’s Red Storm.