Sweetwater's Matt Simmons had a tough decision to wrestle with early this basketball season. He could work hard on hitting his outside jumpers, or he could spend time hitting the books.
His schoolwork and performance on the court were about average, but Simmons knew he would have to raise his grades as well as his scoring percentage to gain second looks from college scouts.
Simmons chose to work on his grades, and the decision seems to have solved both problems.
After receiving his first-semester grades Jan. 31, Simmons, The Times' Player of the Week, came alive on the basketball court, scoring 77 points in his last three outings, including a 37-point, 19-rebound performance Friday in the sixth-ranked Red Devils' 104-72 win over Marion.
"I saw (Simmons) at the end of the day when he got his grades, and he looked so relieved," said Sweetwater Coach Dave Ybarra. "After he got his grades, it was a big load off his shoulders. That night against Hilltop he scored 21 points and he's been hot ever since."
The stress of shooting for high grades and trying to stay in tune with his basketball was beginning to affect the 6-5 senior early in the season.
"After I saw my grades, I felt a lot better about my game," Simmons said. "I just felt a lot freer for some reason."
Simmons fell behind in his schoolwork this fall while playing tight end for the Red Devil football team.
"Football took up a lot of my time," he said. "I was taking my studying lightly and all of a sudden, my teachers were saying I was behind and digging a deeper hole for myself."
Simmons is by no means a poor student. His current grade-point average is 3.0 out of a possible 4.0.
The four-year varsity starter was taking courses last semester ranging from college-level English to physics. After the semester grade cards were issued, he gained more overall confidence in his athletic abilities.
"You can see the difference in his play," Ybarra said. "He's a lot more confident and relaxed out there, and now he is really enjoying himself."
Ybarra said Simmons' recent surge could not have come at a better time. With postseason play just around the corner, the Red Devils (9-1, 15-6) will be depending more on the shy forward.
"Matt is a quiet leader. He leads by example, by going out and playing. He does his talking by playing."