January 23, 2017, Atlanta, Georgia - GSU guard D/Marcus Simonds (15) leaps away from ASU guard Emarius Logan (11) to score a basket in a Sun Belt Conference college basketball game between Georgia State University and Appalachian State University in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, January 23, 2017. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)
Photo: Henry P. Taylor/Henry Taylor / AJC
Photo: Henry P. Taylor/Henry Taylor / AJC

Georgia State’s D’Marcus Simonds brings talent, maturity to court

When D’Marcus Simonds was 10 years old, he already had experimented playing football and baseball. He picked up a third sport, basketball, and ran with it.

Then in eighth grade, Simonds said knew he wanted to play either college basketball or football. He just had to pick which sport. 

“I was really good at football. I was really good at basketball,” Simonds said. “I put baseball down, and then in high school I had to make the decision between football and basketball, and that was a hard one.”

Now, as a guard for Georgia State and its current leading scorer, his ability as a basketball player continues to improve from when he first picked up a basketball. Simonds has scored 279 points for the 2018-19 season, averaging 18.6 points per game.  

Simonds, a junior from Gainesville, will be one of the components in the Panthers’ coming matchup against Sun Belt Conference opponent Louisiana-Lafayette on Thursday. Georgia State holds two conference wins in the 2018-19 season and will look to add its third.

Simonds’ mentality for Thursday’s matchup is to win. He said the ability to win comes from the work he and his teammates put in during practice, the area he credits his continued success. His ability and success on the court were recognized in high school, as he was recruited by Mississippi State, Florida, Georgia State and others. Simonds committed to Mississippi State for basketball in 2014, with the wish to play under former coach Rick Ray. 

But when Ray was fired from the head coaching position at Mississippi State, and Simonds’ mother, Wanda, was sick, he decided to decommit. He wanted to stay closer to home and committed to Georgia State in 2015.

As a freshman on the team, Simonds was the second-leading scorer with 388 points and averaged 13.4 points per game. Coach Ron Hunter recognized his talent from the beginning, but he said Simonds’ abilities have improved with each year to develop him into an “all-around basketball player.”

”He’s grown into a man, and he’s really developed into that,” Hunter said. “Every day for him he gets better, and he’s taken in a part of that process. For him to be a great player on the court, he’s got to be a good person off the court. And that’s what he has developed into.”

Senior forward Malik Benlevi said he knew of Simonds’ talent before the two were at Georgia State. They played on the same AAU basketball team, the Atlanta Celtics, in 2014. That began their friendship as both teammates and friends, and has culminated as being roommates for road games this season. 

Now both as upperclassmen on the team, Benlevi said Simonds’ role on the team has changed from the previous two seasons. 

“Instead of coming in as a freshman not knowing what to do and looking up to the other guys, now all the guys look up to him, because he is a vet now,” Benlevi said. 

Simonds’ success at Georgia State and his status as an upperclassman brings the possibility of leaving early to enter in the NBA draft. He said he had a dream to play in the NBA since he was young, and he now sees the possible reality. For right now, though, he doesn’t try to focus on it. Hunter also recognizes the potential for Simonds, and is excited about a possibility of having another player from the mid-major level drafted. 

“But if it’s time to go, I’m going to tell him to go,” Hunter said. 

For the moment, Simonds’ focus is on winning the matchup against Louisiana-Lafayette, and moving one step closer to returning to the NCAA tournament. 

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