Q&A with Jackson Simmons

Jackson Simmons, a sophomore on the North Carolina men’s basketball team, is coming off an eight-point, four-rebound showing at Florida State. With the help of a key bucket and some late free throws from Simmons, who turned 20 years old Saturday, UNC left FSU with a 77-72 win.

Sports Editor Brandon Moree sat down with Simmons to talk about the roadtrip to Florida and where he’ll go from here.

DAILY TAR HEEL: Have you ever had a better birthday?

JACKSON SIMMONS: You know what, that was the first — I’ve played a few times on my birthday, once in high school, and it didn’t turn out too well. So yeah, this is up there in terms of games being played on my birthday, because it was a big win against a pretty good team at their place and what they did to us a year ago. Being able to get our season back on track, there was a lot riding on that game.

DTH: You were left out there on the floor last year, weren’t you?

JS: It was blown out of proportion a little bit. There were some safety issues at UNLV when they stormed the court there. Safety was the number one priority. The thing I was saying was when that clock hits zero, your first couple steps need to be toward that locker room, and they were. It was good to redeem what happened a year ago with a big win.

DTH: Was that any sort of motivation?

JS: Oh, absolutely. And also the fact that we lost two games to Virginia and Miami was kind of unsettling. We had to kind of get back on track. There was a lot riding on that game from last year and for this year’s team.

DTH: So I guess it’s safe to say you’ve got better memories now?

JS: Yes sir, a lot better memories.

DTH: What was practice like leading up to the Florida State game? Did you anticipate that you might get some more minutes?

JS: I anticipated that there was a possibility that I could. You’ve always got to be ready because you never know when your number’s going to be called. It was just a good week of preparation, and it all just came together. For that game, my number was called, and I tried to give 100 percent.

DTH: Last year, you were out there as one of the last five guys. This year you were out there because coach Roy Williams saw what you were doing and liked it. What do you bring to the floor when you’re out there?

JS: I just try to do my job, and that’s to be the best screener that I can possibly be. If there’s a loose ball, go get it. Box out and just do the little things that can help a team win.

DTH: What was the locker room like after the game?

JS: It was pandemonium. Like I said, it was a big win, and we really wanted that game. There was a different tone before that game than there had been. A lot of seriousness, a lot of focused faces. We just pinned our ears back and went and got it.

DTH: How far do you think you’ve come as a player since your freshman year to where you are right now?

JS: I’ve come a long way. I still have a long ways to go, but from last year, I’ve come a long way. The coaches have helped out with me. Hubert Davis has helped me out a lot, shooting a lot before practice.

And my teammates have helped me out. They’ve always told me to be focused and be ready for when your time because you don’t know when your number’s gonna be called. And it was just great to see a lot of hard work show up in that moment.

DTH: Coming off the Florida State game, what’s the attitude been like in practice?

JS: It’s been positive. Much more relaxed, like I said. It’s a lot better being 1-2 than it is being 0-3. Hopefully by Saturday we’ll say being 2-2’s better than being 1-3. We’ve got two practices to get ready for Maryland, who’s coming off a big win against N.C. State. They won 13 games in a row at one time, so it’s going to be a good challenge.

DTH: Coming off arguably your best game, how do you try to build on that?

JS: To just keep doing my job. I don’t worry about trying to duplicate performances, because when you do that, frustration can easily set in. I’m just going to keep doing my job. We’ll see where that goes.

The only thing I’m concerned with and we’re concerned with is winning — building off that win on Saturday.

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com

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