Season stats: 1.8 PPG, 1.7 RPG
Per-40 minute stats: 10.1 P, 9.4 RPG
Season in a sentence: Hard work earned Jackson Simmons a spot on the fringe of the rotation and a key role in perhaps Carolina's biggest win of the season, a road victory at Florida State.
Season highlights: There's only one place to start with Jackson Simmons' sophomore season highlights: his eight-point, four-rebound performance in Tallahassee in a game the Tar Heels simply had to win. In his 15 minutes of playing time in that game, Carolina was +15, partially because his four offensive rebounds turned into eight points. He even found time for a textbook assist on a backdoor cut.
Highlights of the game are here (key Simmons putback at 2:05, but stay for the locker room celebration and Simmons birthday celebration at 2:30):
That game earned Simmons a sudden burst of midseason playing time. He'd been decidedly outside the rotation prior to that game, and had scored just 18 points in the first 15 contests of the season. But he followed FSU with a career high of 21 minutes in a win at Boston College. In fact, during a five-game stretch that started in Tallahassee and ended at Miami, he played an average of 16 minutes a game.
Simmons fared well against the Seminoles again in the ACC Tournament, as he contributed three rebounds in 11 minutes, the exact same stats he put up against Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.
Simmons was very efficient from the field throughout the season, shooting 65.8% from the field and hitting 21 of his last 27 shots.
Against the ACC: The vast majority of Simmons' ACC playing time came in the first half of the league season. After getting a DNP at Virginia, he saw three minutes of action against Miami, but then averaged 13.8 minutes per game over the next eight contests. In those games, he was reasonably effective, averaging 13.1 points per 40 minutes and eight rebounds per 40 minutes.
But the switch to the smaller rotation squeezed away most of Simmons' playing time, and he did not score a point the rest of the regular season-and attempted just one field goal.
Postseason: Simmons played 11 minutes in each of the opening games in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, grabbing three rebounds in each game and scoring a bucket against Florida State, a team that probably sees him in its sleep. Roy Williams turned to Simmons against the Wildcats because 'Nova was dominating in the paint (they got nine of the first 10 rebounds in the second half). While he didn't make a field goal in that game, he did snatch three rebounds in a quick six-minute stretch.
Areas of improvement: It would be hard for Simmons to improve on his effort, which was the area where he frequently contributed the most to a Tar Heel team that sometimes needed a little jolt in the paint.
It's tough to tell the state of North Carolina's all-time leading high school rebounder that he needs to improve his rebounding, but that's clearly Simmons' ticket to playing time. Especially this year, with more big men in the mix, Carolina has plenty of other posts who can score. But if Simmons can be a relentless enough rebounder and defender that he gives Williams no choice but to play him, he can earn some minutes.
Season stats: 18: Points for Simmons in the first 15 games of the season.
36: Points for Simmons in the next eight games of the season.
5: Points for Simmons in the final 12 games of the season.