Street Ball

Feb. 10, 2005

by Andre Bayard

In the split second it takes the defender to turn his head, Tre Simmons catches the pass, eyes the target, plants his feet, aims, shoots and scores.
Defenders may find their heads spinning from trying to keep up with Simmons' prolific shooting pace, but Husky fans know that when Simmons gets a three-point look, there isn't a defender in the nation quick enough to keep him from knocking the shot down.
In just his second season at Washington since transferring from Green River Community College in Auburn, the 6-foot-5 Simmons is among the Pac-10 leaders in scoring, rebounds, steals, offensive rebounds and three-point percentage. Most importantly, his emergence in 2004-05 has kept UW from losing a step after an early-season injury to junior guard Brandon Roy kept the talented starter on the bench for nine of the Huskies' first 18 games.
It wasn't always this way.
As a youth in Seattle's Central District, Simmons spent more time on the streets than in the gym, with his innocent look frequently the only thing keeping him out of serious trouble.
'Growing up, I wasn't the `good student.' I was out there doing bad, causing trouble. I was headed down a dead-end street,' he says. 'Basketball changed my life, that and my grandfather's death. I knew I had to turn my life around.'
Simmons may have left the streets behind, but that doesn't mean he stopped causing trouble. During his senior season at Seattle's Garfield High School, Simmons' opponents learned just how much trouble the sharp-shooting guard can be, forced to watch as he flew around them for 13 points and eight rebounds per game, leading a Bulldogs squad that included future UW teammates Brandon Roy, Will Conroy and Anthony Washington to the state semifinals.
While his high-school teammates headed off to Washington the following year, Simmons continued his personal transformation at Odessa (Texas) Junior College, averaging 12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, before racking up 29.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game at Auburn's Green River Community College in 2002-03.
With still barely three years of organized basketball under his belt, Simmons drew attention from recruiters at numerous Division-I schools. Prep teammate Conroy, however, did his best to make sure Simmons ended up at Washington, lauding the praises of UW to Simmons, while keeping Huskies' head coach Lorenzo Romar abreast of each of Simmons' big games.
'I wanted to come to Washington,' Simmons says. 'I liked Lorenzo Romar, and the coaches, and my former teammates were there. I knew that UW would be my final home.'
In the fall of 2002, the kid who had once foreseen a future on the streets earned a scholarship to the largest university in the state, in the process reuniting with Conroy, Roy and Washington (since transferred to Portland State). Having the chance to play at the highest level of college basketball with his best friends, who have seen him through every step of his reformation, has been an experience Simmons won't soon forget.
'It was nice to come back. It was like old times,' he says. 'It's fun to play with them, because we already have that chemistry together. It makes it a lot easier to play at the Division-I level.'
Simmons says that despite the struggles of his younger life, there isn't a thing he would change if it meant that he'd be brought right back to this point, suiting up for one of the top basketball teams in the country and on track to earn a college degree in June.
'Coming here was one of the best things that ever happened to me,' Simmons says. 'Even though I am really anxious to graduate in a few months, I know I am going to miss playing for the Huskies, and being with the team. We always hang out -- we are like brothers, and the coaches are like our fathers. They keep us in line. I know I can go to them for anything -- well, anything except money.'
The way Simmons has played through the first three months of the season, money may soon be no object. Always a scorer and rebounder, Simmons has built himself into one of the Pac-10's stingiest perimeter defenders, creating a package of skills he hopes will attract the attention of NBA scouts.
'The NBA has crossed my mind, definitely,' he says. 'Hopefully somebody will pick me up. It doesn't even matter which team I get on --just as long as I get there.'
Modest to a fault, Simmons has a hard time acknowledging his newfound fame. Called 'The Silent Assassin' by his teammates due to his quiet demeanor and deadly accuracy from three-point range, Simmons is still adjusting to the recognition that his and the team's accomplishments are receiving.
'I sometimes notice people staring at us when we walk around campus, or anywhere. Sometimes I am like, `What are they looking at?'' he says. 'But it's cool. Since we are winning, and our names and pictures are all over, I can't really hide from it. But I don't let it get to me that much.'
Considering how far he has come in life, Simmons is certainly not going to let fame distract him from his goals. In life, as on the court, Simmons is the Silent Assassin, doing whatever is asked of him to the best of his ability, without the showiness or self-promotion.
'I am just out there playing basketball, and doing what I am supposed to do,' he says. 'Showing your emotions after a big dunk, or a good play ... that takes a lot of energy, so I don't do it. I need all the energy I can get.'
It's that energy that allows Simmons to catch, set, aim, shoot and score in the blink of an eye, before defenders have the chance to react. Opposing players may be confused when the shots rain down seemingly from nowhere, or when the ball squirts out of their hand, stolen by a purple-clad player they never saw.
Husky fans, though, know exactly what is happening -- their Silent Assassin is at it again.

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