Complete game is Simpson's greatest asset

January 19, 1994|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

During the first half of Southern's 81-66 victory over Lake Clifton on Dec. 4, Kevin Simpson got a pass around the left corner of the three-point circle.

In a flash, he launched a jumper from around 20 feet while falling away. Nothing but net. The crowd at Lake Clifton was in a buzz as Simpson jogged back down the court.

At times, Simpson, a 6-foot-5 senior shooting guard, make things look easy on the court. Even his coach is amazed at his talents.

"He excels in every aspect of the game," said Southern coach Meredith Smith. "He's quick and athletic. He has a tremendous knowledge of the game. He's a good defender, shooter and ballhandler, and goes to the basket well. He's just a complete player."

While Damon Cason is the leader and Dante Williams is the spark, Simpson has been the stabilizer for the Bulldogs (8-0), ranked No. 4 in this week's USA Today's Super 25.

After Thursday's 16-point performance against Edmondson in a 93-57 victory, which extended Southern's winning streak to 22 games, Simpson is averaging 21.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

Considered one of the country's top guard prospects, Simpson was a first-team all-Metro selection last season, averaging 20.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists, filling the void left by the graduation of Kwame Evans (George Washington).

Quiet and unassuming, Simpson hasn't let the preseason notices and the crunch of college recruiters overwhelm him. Just as when he was a freshman, he wants to be a team player.

"I don't worry about being one of the top players in the country," said Simpson. "I don't worry about people outside saying that I'm the best player on the team because I don't see myself as that. This team has worked hard together and we're having fun."

When Simpson arrived at Southern as a freshman in 1990, another freshman Damon Cason, the kid with the fancy ballhandling skills and heir apparent to brother David (Illinois State) at point guard, was receiving all of the attention.

There was no jealousy or animosity between the pair who were rivals on the court growing up. They became close friends after their freshman season, and now, form one of the nation's best backcourts.

"He knows where I'm passing him the ball to and the little holes are," said Cason. "He also knows where to pass it to me. He's just a great player."

Growing up playing in Collington Square, Oliver and Cecil-Kirk recreation programs, Simpson spent most of the time playing in the paint. He didn't think he would be a versatile player until he reached Southern.

Simpson began coming into his own early last season. He was named to the all-tournament team at the Johnstown (Pa.) Tournament and was MVP of the Tymark Mixer in Deep Creek, Va.

Last summer, Simpson was the co-MVP of the Urban Coalition League and the outstanding player at a Five-Star camp session in Honsdale, Pa.

But the highlight of Simpson's summer came at the LA Gear Slam-N-Jam Invitational in Long Beach, Calif., where he was named outstanding player. The previous summer, Simpson only participated in two games before a twisted ankle sidelined him ++ for the duration of the tournament.

"It was tough competition out there," said Simpson. "There was a lot of all-Americans playing there. Our coach [Kevin Hargrove] told we had to play hard and I had to take my game up a notch in order for us to win."

Simpson's play has attracted the attention of schools like Massachusetts, George Washington, Texas, USC, Boston College, Oklahoma, UNLV, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Virginia and UCLA. He hasn't obtained the minimum score of 700 on the Scholastic Assessment Test for freshman eligibility and isn't thinking about any college right now.

"I've been working real hard to make my boards first before I even consider a four-year college," Simpson said. "I want to have everything together, so I won't hear any complaints."

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