Monday, December 22, 2014

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Simmons Makes His Mark

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Rochester: Simmons Makes His Mark
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Jake Simmons road to the top truly started at the bottom.

The Buffalo State senior guard recently became the Bengals' all-time leading scorer, surpassing the record held by former NBA All-Star Randy Smith.

"To even be mentioned in the same kind of sentence or the same anything with Randy Smith is an accomplishment in itself."

But the fact Simmons is even playing college basketball is the true accomplishment. As a teenager in Rochester, his house burned down and he was homeless for a time.

He was in foster care and had to help take care of his siblings.

His mother passed away.

And basketball took a backseat.

"Then eventually I realized that basketball was the one thing that kept me going, said Simmons. "It was the one thing that was stable; the one thing that I could control was making my own shots."

But just as Jake began pursuing college hoops, misfortune struck again.

"On top of that, when I finally decided to go back to school I ended up getting in a car accident," said Simmons. "A woman hit me and when I got in a car accident, I was really messed up. I couldn't walk for a while."

And through it all, Jake turned back to basketball when things looked bleak.

"I stayed in the gym everyday. Basketball put me through rehab, it got me back in the gym, it got me feeling good about myself again," he said. "And everybody told me, 'Jake, just get back into school, do what you gotta do because this is your way of getting out of the neighborhood. This is your way of making something for yourself. This is your way of setting an example for the kids in the community."

"We didn't want life to be just about basketball," said Bengals' head coach Fajri Ansari. "This was a vehicle for him to overcome his difficulties. And now that he's gotten to this point, you don't want to let it go."

Jake has designs on continuing his basketball career after college, possibly playing professionally overseas. He also wants to help kids learn they can overcome the odds like he did.

"Whatever it is but working on something that helps you build the skills that help you get through life," he said. "But you're using basketball as an instrument."

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